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Published by 


Paris, 1950 


Forms and Functions of Exchange 
in Archaic Societies 



Translated by 


With an Introduction by 


Professor of Social Anthropology 
and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford 


68-74 Carter Lane, London, E.C.4 






By E. E. Evans-Pritchard 

Fellow of All Souls College and Professor of Social Anthropology, 

University of Oxford 

MARCEL MAUSS (i 872-1 950), Emile Durkheim's 
nephew and most distinguished pupil, was a man of 
unusual ability and learning, and also of integrity and 
strong convictions. After Durkheim's death he was the leading 
figure in French sociology. His reputation was closely bound 
up with the fortunes of the Annee Sociologique which he helped 
his uncle to found and make famous; some of the most stimu- 
lating and original contributions to its earher numbers were 
written by him in collaboration with Durkheim and Hubert and 
Beuchat: Essai sur la nature et la f auction du sacrifice (1899), 
De quelques formes primitives de classification : contribution a f etude 
des representations collectives (1903), Esquisse d'une theorie generale 
de la magie (1904), and Essai sur les variations saisonnieres des 
societes eskimos : essai de morphologic sociale (1906). 

The war of 19 14-18, during which Mauss was on opera- 
tional service, almost wiped out the team of brilliant younger 
scholars whom Durkheim had taught, inspired, and gathered 
around him^ — his son Andre Durkheim, Robert Hertz, Antoine 
Bianconi, Georges Gelly, Maxime David, Jean Reynier. The 
Master did not survive them (d. 191 7). Had it not been for 
*X these disasters Mauss might have given us in ampler measure 
CK the fruits of his erudition, untiring industry, and mastery of 
^2 method. But he not only wrote about social solidarity and 
^ collective sentiments. He expressed them in his own life. For 
. him the group of Durkheim and his pupils and colleagues had 
^ a kind of collective mind, the material representation of which 
^was its product the Annee. And if one belongs to others and not 
to oneself, which is one of the themes, perhaps the basic theme, 



of the present book, one expresses one's attachment by sub- 
ordinating one's own ambitions to the common interest. On 
the few occasions I met Mauss I received the impression that 
this was how he thought and felt, and his actions confirmed it. 
He took over the labours of his dead colleagues. Most un- 
selfishly, for it meant neglecting his own researches, he under- 
took the heavy task of editing, completing and publishing the 
manuscripts left by Durkheim, Hubert (who died in 1927), 
Hertz and others. He undertook also, in 1923-24, the even 
heavier task of reviving his beloved Annee^ which had ceased 
publication after 191 3. This imposed an added burden on him 
and farther deflected him from the field of his own chief interest. 
Mauss became a Sanskrit scholar and a historian of religions 
at the same time as he became a sociologist, and his main 
interest throughout his life was in Comparative Religion or the 
Sociology of Religion. But he felt that the new series of the 
Annie must, like the old one, cover all the many branches of 
sociological research, and this could only be done if he took 
over those branches other than his own which would have been 
the special concern of those who had died. Consequently, 
though he pubUshed many reviews and review-articles, his only 
major works after 1906 were the Essai sur le don, forme archaique 
de rSchange (1925), which Dr. Cunnison now presents in an 
EngUsh translation. Fragment d'un plan de sociologie generate descrip- 
tive (1934), and Une categorie de V esprit humain: la notion de per- 
sonne, celle de 'moi' (1938). His projected works on Prayer, on 
Money and on the State were never completed. But he was 
active all the time. The second series of the Annee had to be 
abandoned, but a third series was started in 1934. Then came 
the war of 1939-45. Paris was occupied by the Nazis, and 
Mauss was a Jew. He was not himself injured, but some of his 
closest colleagues and friends, Maurice Halbwachs and others, 
were killed. For a second time he saw all around him collapse, 
and this, combined with other and personal troubles, was too 
much for him and his mind gave way. 

This is not the place to make a critical assessment of Mauss's 
part in the development of sociological thought in France — it 


has been admirably done by Henri Levy-Bruhl and Claude 
Levi-Strauss.* All that is required are some very brief indica- 
tions of the importance of Mauss's work and of the Essai sur le 
don as a particular example of it. 

Mauss was in the line of philosophical tradition running 
from Montesquieu through the philosophers of the Enlighten- 
ment — Turgot, Condorcet, St. Simon — to Comte and then 
Durkheim, a tradition in which conclusions were reached by 
analysis of concepts rather than of factSj_the facts being used 
as illustrations of formulations reached by other than inductive 
methods. But while that is true, it is also true that Mauss was 
far less a philosopher than Durkheim. In all his essays he turns 
first to the concrete facts and examines them in their entirety 
and to the last detail. This was the main theme of an excellent 
lecture on Mauss delivered recently (1952) at Oxford by one 
of his former pupils, M. Louis Dumont. He pointed out that 
though Mauss, out of loyalty and affection, studiously avoided 
any criticism of Durkheim such criticism is nevertheless implicit 
in his writings, which are so much more empirical than Durk- 
heim's that it might be said that with Mauss sociology in 
France reached its experimental stage. Mauss sought only to 
know a limited range of facts and then to understand them, 
and what Mauss meant by understanding comes out very 
clearly in this Essay. Ij^isjo see soc ial phenomena— as, indeed, 
Durkheim taught that they should be seen-— in their totality. 
'Total' is the key word of the Essay. The exchanges of archaic 
societies which he examines are total social movements or 
activities. They are atjhejame time economic, juridical^ moral, 
aesthetic, religious, mythological and socio-morphological 
phenomena. Their meaning can therefore only be grasped if 
they are viewed as a complex concrete reality, and if for con- 
venience we iriafe abstractions in studying some institution we 

* H. Ldvy-Bruhl, 'In Memoriam: Marcel Mauss' in UAnrUe Sociologique, 
Troisieme Serie, 1948-49. C. Levi-Strauss, 'La Sociologie frangaise' in 
La sociologie au XX" sikle, 1947, Vol. 2 [Twentieth Century Sociology, 1946, 
ch. xvii) ; 'Introduction a I'oeuvre de Marcel Mauss', in Sociologie et 
Anthropologie, a collection of some of Mauss's essays published in 1950. 


must in the end replace what we have taken away if we are to 
understand it. And the means to be used to reach an under- 
standing of institutions? They are those employed by the 
anthropological fieldworker who studies social life from both 
outside and inside, from the outside as anthropologist and from 
the inside by identifying himself with the members of the society 
he is studying. Mauss demonstrated that, given enough well 
documented material, he could do this without leaving his flat 
in Paris. He soaked his mind in ethnographical material, 
including all available linguistic material; but he was successful 
only because that mind was also a master of sociological 
method. Mauss did in his study what an anthropologist does in 
the field, bringing a trained mind to bear on the social life of 
primitive peoples which he both observes and experiences. We 
social anthropologists therefore regard him as one of us. 

But to understand 'total' phenomena in their totality it is 
necessary first to know them. One must be a scholar. It is not 
sufficient to read the writings of others about the thought and 
customs of ancient India or ancient Rome. One must be able 
to go straight to the sources, for scholars not trained in socio- 
logical methods will not have seen in the facts what is of 
sociological significance. The sociologist who sees them in their 
totality sees them differently. Mauss was able to go to the 
sources. Besides having an excellent knowledge of several 
modern European languages, including Russian, he was a fine 
Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Celtic and Hebrew scholar, as well as 
a brilliant sociologist. Perhaps to their surprise, he was able to 
teach Sanskritists much that they did not know was in their 
texts and Roman lawyers much that they did not know was in 
theirs. What he says about the meaning of certain forms of 
exchange in ancient India and in ancient Rome in the Essai 
sur le don is an illustration. This was perhaps not so remarkable 
a feat as that he was able to show from Malinowski's own 
account of the Trobriand Islanders where he had misunder- 
stood, or had inadequately understood, their institutions. He 
could do this because of his vast knowledge, which Mahnowski 
lacked, of Oceanic languages and of the native societies of 


Melanesia, Polynesia, America and elsewhere, which enabled 
him to deduce by a comparative study of primitive institutions 
what the fieldworker had not himself observed. 

The Essai sur le don, apart from its value as an exercise in 
method, is a precious document in itself. It is of great import- 
ance for an understanding of Mauss and for an assessment of 
his significance as a scholar, since most of his other well-known 
Essays were written in collaboration, but it is also of great 
intrinsic value. It is the first systematic and comparative study ,, 
(of the widespread custom of gift exchange and the first under- j 
standing of its function in the articulation of the social orden)/ 
Mauss shows in this Essay what is the real nature, and what is 
the f und amental significance, of such institutions as the potlatch 
and the kula which at first sight bewilder us or even seem to be 
pointless and unintelligible. And when he shows us how to 
understand them he reveals not only the meaning of certain 
customs of North American Indians and of Melanesians but 
at the same time the nieaning__Q£-custoifts- 4n early pha ses o f ^iU^ — 
historical civilizatiojis^ and, what is more, the significance of '^ 
practices^in our own society at the present time. In Mauss's 
Essays there is always implicit a comparison, or contrast, 
between the archaic institutions he is writing about and our 
own. He is asking himself not only how we can understand 
these archaic institutions but also how an understanding of 
them helps us the better to understand our own, and perhaps 
to improve them. Nowhere does this come out more clearly 
than in the Essai sur le don, where Mauss is telling us, quite 
pointedly, in case we should not reach the conclusion for our- 
selves, how much we have lost, whatever we may have other- 
wise gained, bj^he substitution of a rational economic system 
for a system in which exchange of goods was riot a mechanical 
but a moral transaction, bringing about and maintaining 
human, personal, relationships between individuals and groups.J 
We take our own social conventions for granted and we seldom 
think how recent many of them are and how ephemeral they 
will perhaps prove to be. Men at other times had, and in many 
parts of the world still have, different ideas, values and customs. 



from a study of which we may learn much that, Mauss believed, 
may be of value to ourselves. 

It is some years since I suggested to Dr. Gunnison that he 
might translate this Essay of Marcel Mauss. A good knowledge 
of French is, of course, essential, but it is not in itself sufficient 
for the translation of a sociological work from French into 
English. The translator must be also a sociologist, or in the case 
of Mauss better still a social anthropologist; for to translate 
the words is one thing, to translate them in the sense of the 
author is another. Dr. Gunnison has both requirements. He is 
a French scholar and also an anthropologist. The translation 
and its publication have been delayed by the need for revision, 
and it is greatly to Dr. Gunnison's credit that he has found time 
to complete his task in the midst of his own considerable 
anthropological researches carried out during the last few years, 
first among the Luapula peoples of Northern Rhodesia and 
then, without respite, among the Baggara Arabs of the Anglo- 
Egyptian Sudan. 


The editing of this translation differs from that of the original 
French edition in a number of ways which it is hoped will make 
for easier reading. In the French edition the compendious notes 
were printed on the text pages. Here they are placed after the 
text and numbered separately by chapters. Some short notes 
have been combined for the sake of clarity but each note still 
refers to a single subject. Bibliographical references have been 
standardized throughout the notes. The whole text is printed 
in type of the same size whereas some sections of the original 
are in smaller type than the main body of the text. Finally, the 
orthographic refinements of Indian and North- West American 
words have not been reproduced. 

Mauss used the words don and present indifferently, and here 
similarly 'gift' and 'present' are used for the most part inter- 
changeably, although 'gift' may have the more formal meaning. 
There is no convenient English word to translate the French 
prestation so this word itself is used to mean any thing or series 
of things given freely or obligatorily as a gift or in exchange ; 
and includes services, entertainments, etc., as well as material 

I. C. 




.1 jGifts and 

THE Obligation to Return Gifts 

1 II ] Distribution 

Total prestation, masculine and feminine property 

{Samoa) .... 
The spirit of the thing given ( Maori) 
The obligation to give and the obligation to receive 
Gifts to men and gifts to gods 

OF the System: Generosity 
Honour and Money 

1 Rules of generosity [Andaman Islands) 

2 Principles, motives and intensity of gift exchang 
[Melanesia) .... 

3 Honour and credit [N. W. America) . 

4 The three obligations : giving, receiving, repaying 

5 The power in objects of exchange 

6 ^ Money of Renown' [Renommiergeld) 

7 Primary conclusion .... 
Survivals in Early Literature 

1 Personal law and real law [Ancient Rome) 

2 Theory of the gift [Hindu Classical period) . 

3 Pledge and gift [Germanic societies) 
Conclusions .... 

1 Moral conclusions 

2 Political and economic conclusions 

3 Sociological and ethical conclusions 
Bibliographical abbreviations used in the notes 
Notes ....... 












I have never found a man so generous and hospitable that 
he would not receive a present, nor one so liberal with his 
money that he would dislike a reward if he could get one. 

Friends should rejoice each others' hearts with gifts of 
weapons and raiment, that is clear from one's own experience. 
That friendship lasts longest — if there is a chance of its being 
a success — in which friends both give and receive gifts. 

A man ought to be a friend to his friend and repay gift 
with gift. People should meet smiles with smiles and lies with 

Know — if you have a friend in whom you have sure con- 
fidence and wish to make use of him, you ought to exchange 
ideas and gifts with him and go to see him often. 

If you have another in whom you have no confidence and 
yet will make use of him, you ought to address him with fair 
words but crafty heart and repay treachery with lies. 

Further, with regard to him in whom you have no con- 
fidence and of whose motives you are suspicious, you ought 
to smile upon him and dissemble your feelings. Gifts ought to 
be repaid in like coin. 

Generous and bold men have the best time in life and 
never foster troubles. But the coward is apprehensive of 
everything and a miser is always groaning over his gifts. 

Better there should be no prayer than excessive offering; 
a gift always looks for recompense. Better there should be no 
sacrifice than an excessive slaughter. 

Havamal, w. 39, 41-2, 44-6, 48 and 145, from 
the translation by D. E. Martin Clarke in The 
Havamal, with Selections from other Poems in the Edda, 
Cambridge, 1923. 



THE foregoing lines from the Edda outline our subject- 
matter.^ In Scandinavian and many other civilizations 
contracts are fulfilled and exchanges of goods are made 
by means of gifts. In theory such gifts are voluntary but in fact 
they are given and repaid under obligation. 

This work is part of a wider study. For some years our 
attention has been drawn to the realm of contract and the 
system of economic prestations between the component sections 
or sub-groups of 'primitive' and what we might call 'archaic' 
socie ties. On this subject there is a great mass of complex data. ^^ 
For, in these 'early' societies, social phenomena are not dis- 
crete; each phenomenon contains all the threads of which the 
social fabric is composed. In these total social phenomena, as 
we propose to call them, all kinds of institutions find sfmul- 
taneous expression: religious, legal, moral, and economic. In 
addition, the phenomena have their aesthetic aspect and they 
reveal morphological types. 

We intend in this book to isolate one important set of 
phenomena: namely, prestations which are in theory volun- 
tary, disinterested and spontaneous, but are in fact obligatory 
and interested. The form usually taken is that of the gift 
generously offered ; but the accompanying behaviour is formal 
pretence and social deception, while the transaction itself is 
based on obligation and economic self-interest. We shall note 
the various principles behind this necessary form of exchange 
(which is nothing less than the division of labour itself), but we 
shall confine our detailed study to the enquiry : In primitive or 
archaic types of society what is the principle whereby the gift received 
has to be repaid? What force is there in the thing given which compels 
the recipient to make a return? We hope, by presenting enough 


data, to be able to answer this question precisely, and also to 
indicate the direction in which answers to cognate questions 
might be sought. We shall also pose new problems. Of these, 
some concern the morality of the contract: for instance, the 
manner in which today the law of things remains bound up 
with the law of persons ; and some refer to the forms and ideas 
which have always been present in exchange and which even 
now are to be seen in the idea of individual interest. 

Thus we have a double aim. We seek a set of more or less 
archaeological conclusions on the nature of human transactions 
in the societies which surround us and those which immediately 
preceded ours, and whose exchange institutions differ frorn our 
own. We describe their forms of contract and exchange.'ilt has 
been suggested that these societies lackdie^coH©fflie-«iaEket^_but 
this is not true ; for the maflcetrTf^aTHuman phenomenon which 
we believe to be familiar to every known Society ."Markets 
are found before the development of merchants, and before 
their most important innovation, currency as we know it. They 
functioned before they took the modern forms (Semitic, 
Hellenic, Hellenistic, and Roman) of contract and sale and 
capital. We shall take note of the moral and economic features 
of these institutions. 

We contend that the same moraUty and economy are at 
work, albeit less noticeably, in our own societies, and we believe 
that in them we have discovered one of the bases of social life ; 
and thus we may draw conclusions of a moral nature about 
some of the problems confronting us in our present economic 
crisis. These pages of social history, theoretical sociology, 
political economy and morality do no more than lead us to old 
problems which are constantly turning up under new guises.^ 

The Method Followted 

Our method is one of careful comparison. We confine the 
study to certain chosen areas, Polynesia, Melanesia, and North- 
West America, and to certain well-known codes. Again, since 
we are concerned with words and their meanings, we choose 


only areas where we have access to the minds of the societies 
through documentation and philological research. This further 
Umits our field of comparison. Each particular study has a 
bearing on the systems we set out to describe and is presented 
in its logical place. In this way we avoid that method of hap- 
hazard comparison in which institutions lose their local colour 
and documents their value. 

Prestation, Gift and Potlatgh 

This work is part of the wider research carried out by M. 
Davy and myself upon archaic forms of contract, so we may 
start by summarizing what we have found so far.^ It appears 
that there has never existed, either in the past or in modern 
primitive societies, anything like a 'natural' economy.* By a 
strange chance the type of that economy was taken to be the 
one described by Captain Cook when he wrote on exchange 
and barter among the Polynesians.^ In our study here of these 
same Polynesians we shall see how far removed they are from 
a state of nature in these matters. 

In the systems of the past we do not find simple exchange 
of goods, wealth and produce through markets estabUshed 
among individuals. For it is groups, and not individuals, which 
carry on exchange, make contracts, and are bound by obliga- 
tions; * the persons represented in the contracts are moral 
persons — clans, tribes, and families; the groups, or the chiefs as 
intermediaries for the groups, confront and oppose each other. ' 
Further, what they exchange is not exclusively goods and 
wealth, real and personal property, and things of economic 
value. They exchange rather courtesies, entertainments, ritual, 
military assistance, women, children, dances, and feasts; and 
fairs in which the market is but one element and the circulation 
of wealth but one part of a wide and enduring contract, i 
Finally, although the prestations and counter-prestations take 
place under a voluntary guise they are in essence strictly obliga- 
tory, and their sanction is private or open warfare. We propose 
to call this the system of total prestations. Such institutions 



seem to us to be best represented in the alliance of pairs of 
phratries in Australian and North American tribes, where 
ritual, marriages, succession to wealth, community of right and 
interest, military and religious rank and even games ^ all form 
part of one system and presuppose the collaboration of the two 
moieties of the tribe. The THngit and Haida of North- West 
America give a good expression of the nature of these practices 
when they say that they 'show respect to each other'.' 

But with the Tlingit and Haida, and in the whole of that 
region, total prestations appear in a form which, although 
quite typical, is yet evolved and relatively rare. We propose, 
following American authors, to call it the potlatch. This Chinook 
word has passed into the current language of Whites and 
Indians from Vancouver to Alaska. Potlatch meant originally 
'to nourish' or 'to consume'.^" The Tlingit and Haida inhabit 
the islands, the coast, and the land between the coast and the 
Rockies; they are very rich, and pass their winters in continuous 
festival, in banquets, fairs and markets which at the same time 
are solemn tribal gatherings. The tribes place themselves 
hierarchically in their fraternities and secret societies. On these 
occasions are practised marriages, initiations, shamanistic 
seances, and the cults of the great gods, totems, and group or 
individual ancestors. These are all accompanied by ritual and 
by prestations by whose means political rank within sub-groups, 
tribes, tribal confederations and nations is settled." But the 
remarkable thing about these tribes is the spirit of rivalry and 
antagonism which dominates all their activities. A man is not 
afraid to challenge an opposing chief or nobleman. Nor does 
one stop at the purely sumptuous destruction of accumulated 
wealth in order to eclipse a rival chief (who may be a close 
relative) .^2 We are here confronted with total prestation in the 
sense that the whole clan, through the intermediacy of its 
chiefs, makes contracts involving all its members and every- 
thing it possesses.^^ But the agonistic character of the prestation 
is pronounced. Essentially usurious and extravagant, it is above 
all a struggle among nobles to determine their position in the 
hierarchy to the ultimate benefit, if they are successful, of their 


own clans. This agonistic type of total prestation we propose 
to call the 'potlatch'. 

So far in our study Davy and I had found few examples of 
this institution outside North- West America,^* Melanesia, and 
Papua.^^ Everywhere else — in Africa, Polynesia, and Malaya, 
in South America and the rest of North America — the basis 
of exchange seemed to us to be a simpler type of total prestation. 
However, further research brings to light a number of forms 
intermediate between exchanges marked by exaggerated 
rivalry like those of the American north-west and Melanesia, 
and others more moderate where the contracting parties rival 
each other with gifts: for instance, the French compete with 
each other in their ceremonial gifts, parties, weddings, and 
invitations, and feel bound, as the Germans say, to revanchieren 
themselves.^* We find some of these intermediate forms in the 
Indo-European world, notably in Thrace.^' 

Many ideas and principles are to be noted in systems of this 
type. The most important of these spiritual mechanisms is 
clearly the one which obliges us to make a return gift for a gift 
received. The moral and religious reasons for this constraint 
are nowhere more obvious than in Polynesia ; and in approach- 
ing the Polynesian data in the following chapter we shall see 
clearly the power which enforces the repayment of a gift and 
the fulfilment of contracts of this kind. I 




I. Total Prestation 
Masculine and Feminine Property 


IN our earlier researches on the distribution of the system 
of contractual gifts, we had found no real potlatch in 
Polynesia. The Polynesian societies whose institutions came 
nearest to it appeared to have nothing beyond a system of total 
prestations, that is to say of permanent contracts between clans 
in which their men, women and children, their ritual, etc., 
were put on a communal basis. The facts that we had studied, 
including the remarkable Samoan custom of the exchange of 
decorated mats between chiefs on their marriages, did not 
indicate more complex institutions.^ The elements of rivalry, 
destruction and fighting seemed to be absent, although we 
found they were present in Melanesia. We now reconsider the 
matter in the light of new material. 

The system of contractual gifts in Samoa is not confined to 
marriage; it is present also in respect of childbirth, ^ circum- 
cision,^ sickness,* girls' puberty,^ funeral ceremonies ® and 
trade.' Moreover, two elements of the potlatch have in fact 
been attested to: the honour, prestige or mana which wealth 
confers; ^ and the absolute obligation to make return gifts 
under the penalty of losing the mana, authority and wealth.' 

Turner tells us that on birth ceremonies, after receiving the 
oloa and the tonga, the 'masculine' and 'feminine' property, 
'the husband and wife were left no richer than they were. 
Still, they had the satisfaction of seeing what they considered 
to be a great honour, namely, the heaps of property collected 


on the occasion of the birth of their child.' ^" These gifts are 
probably of an obligatory and permanent nature, and returns 
are made only through the system of rights which compels 
them. In this society, where cross-cousin marriage is the rule, 
a man gives his child to his sister and brother-in-law to bring 
up; and the brother-in-law, who is the child's maternal uncle, 
calls the child a tonga^ a piece of feminine property.^^ It is then 
a 'channel through which native property ^^ or tonga, continues 
to flow to that family from the parents of the child. On the 
other hand, the child is to its parents a source of foreign 
property or oloa, coming from the parties who adopt it, as long 
as the child lives.' 'This sacrifice of natural ties creates a 
systematic facility in native and foreign property.' In short, 
the child (feminine property) is the means whereby the 
maternal family's property is exchanged for that of the paternal 
family. Since the child in fact lives with his maternal uncle he 
clearly has a right to live there and thus has a general right 
over his uncle's property. This system of fosterage is much akin 
to the generally recognized right of the sister's son over his 
uncle's property in Melanesia.^^ We need only the elements of 
rivalry, fighting and destruction for the complete potlatch. 

Now let us consider the terms oloa and more particularly 
tonga. The latter means indestructible property, especially the 
marriage mats ^* inherited by the daughters of a marriage, and 
the trinkets and talismans which, on condition of repayment, 
come through the wife into the newly founded family; these 
constitute real property.^* The oloa designates all the things 
which are particularly the husband's personal property.^* This 
term is also applied today to things obtained from Europeans, 
clearly a recent extension.^' We may disregard as inexact and 
insufficient the translation suggested by Turner of oloa as 
foreign and tonga as native; yet it is not without significance, 
since it suggests that certain property called tonga is more 
closely bound up with the land, the clan and the family than 
certain other property called oloa.^^ 

But if we extend our field of observation we immediately 
find a wider meaning of the notion tonga. In the Maori, 


Tahitian, Tongan and Mangarevan languages it denotes 
everything which may be rightly considered property, which 
makes a man rich, powerful or influential, and which can be 
exchanged or used as compensation: that is to say, such objects 
of value as emblems, charms, mats and sacred idols, and per- 
haps even traditions, magic and ritual.^' Here we meet that 
notion of magical property which we believe to be widely 
spread in the Malayo-Polynesian world and right over the 

2. The Spirit of the Thing Given 


This last remark leads to a contention of some importance. 
The taonga are, at any rate with the Maori, closely attached to 
the individual, the clan and the land; they are the vehicle of 
their mana — magical, religious and spiritual power. In a 
proverb collected by Sir G. Grey " and C, O. Davis, ^^ taonga 
are asked to destroy the person who receives them; and they 
have the power to do this if the law, or rather the obligation, 
about making a return gift is not observed. 

Our late friend Hertz saw the significance of this; disin- 
terestedly he had written 'for Davy and Mauss' on the card 
containing the following note by Colenso : 'They had a kind of 
system of exchange, or rather of giving presents which had 
later to be exchanged or repaid.' ^^ For example, they exchange 
dried fish for pickled birds and mats.^* The exchange is carried 
out between tribes or acquainted families without any kind of 

But Hertz had also found — I discovered it amongst his 
papers — a text whose significance we had both missed, for 
I had been unaware of it myself. Speaking of the hau, the spirit 
of things and particularly of the forest and forest game, Tamati 
Ranaipiri, one of Mr. Elsdon Best's most useful informants, 
gives quite by chance the key to the whole problem. ^^ 'I shall 
tell you about hau. Hau is not the wind. Not at all. Suppose you 
have some particular object, taonga, and you give it to me; you 


give it to me without a price. ^^ We do not bargain over it. Now 
I give this thing to a third person who after a time decides to 
give me something in repayment for it (utu),^'' and he makes 
me a present of something [taonga] . Now this taonga I received 
from him is the spirit {hau) of the taonga I received from you 
and which I passed on to him. The taonga which I receive on 
account of the taonga that came from you, I must return to 
you. It would not be right on my part to keep these taonga 
whether they were desirable or not. I must give them to you 
since they are the hau ^^ of the taonga which you gave me. If 
I were to keep this second taonga for myself I might become ill 
or even die. Such is hau, the hau of personal property, the hau 
of the taonga, the hau of the forest. Enough on that subject.' 

This capital text deserves comment. It is characteristic of 
the indefinite legal and religious atmosphere of the Maori and 
their doctrine of the 'house of secrets' ; it is surprisingly clear 
in places and offers only one obscurity: the intervention of a 
third person. But to be able to understand this Maori lawyer 
we need only say: 'The taonga and all strictly personal posses- 
sions have a hau, a spiritual power. You give me taonga, I give 
it to another, the latter gives me taonga back, since he is forced 
to do so by the hau of my gift ; and I am obliged to give this 
one to you since I must return to you what is in fact the product 
of the hau of your taonga.'' 

Interpreted thus not only does the meaning become clear, 
but it is found to emerge as one of the leitmotifs of Maori 
custom. The obligation attached to a gift itself is not inert. 
Even when abandoned by the giver, it still forms a part of him. 
Through it he has a hold over the recipient, just as he had, 
while its owner, a hold over anyone who stole it.^* For the 
taonga is animated with the hau of its forest, its soil, its homeland, 
and the hau pursues him who holds it.^" 

It pursues not only the first recipient of it or the second or 
the third, but every individual to whom the taonga is trans- 
mitted.^^ The hau wants to return to the place of its birth, to 
its sanctuary of forest and clan and to its owner. The taonga or 
its hau — itself a kind of individual '^ — constrains a series of users 


to return some kind of taonga of their own, some property or 
merchandise or labour, by means of feasts, entertainments or 
gifts of equivalent or superior value. Such a return will give its 
donor authority and power over the original donor, who now 
becomes the latest recipient. That seems to be the motivating 
force behind the obligatory circulation of wealth, tribute and 
gifts in Samoa and New Zealand. 

This or something parallel helps to explain two sets of 
important social phenomena in Polynesia and elsewhere. We 
can see the nature of the bond created by the transfer of a 
possession. We shall return shortly to this point and show how 
our facts contribute to a general theory of obligation. But for 
the moment it is clear that in Maori custom this bond created 
by things is in fact a bond between persons, since the thing 
itself is a person or pertains to a person. Hence it follows that 
to give something is to give a part of oneself Secondly, we are 
led to a better understanding of gift exchange and total presta- 
tion, including the potlatch. It follows clearly from what we 
have seen that in this system of ideas one gives away what is in 
reality a part of one's nature and substance, while to receive 
something is to receive a part of someone's spiritual essence. 
To keep this thing is dangerous, not only because it is illicit to 
do so, but also because it comes morally, physically and 
spiritually from a person. Whatever it is, food,^^ possessions, 
women, children or ritual, it retains a magical and religious 
hold over the recipient. The thing given is not inert. It is alive 
and often personified, and strives to bring to its original clan 
and homeland some equivalent to take its place. 

3. The Obligation to Give and the Obligation to 


To appreciate fully the institutions of total prestation and 
the potlatch we must seek to explain two complementary 
factors. Total prestation not only carries with it the obligation 
to repay gifts received, but it implies two others equally 
important: the obligation to give presents and the obligation 


I I 

to receive them. A complete theory of the three obHgations 
would include a satisfactory fundamental explanation of this 
form of contract among Polynesian clans. For the moment we 
simply indicate the manner in which the subject might be 

It is easy to find a large number of facts on the obligation 
to receive. A clan, household, association or guest are con- 
strained to demand hospitality,^* to receive presents, to barter^^ 
or to make blood and marriage alliances. The Dayaks have 
even developed a whole set of customs based on the obligation 
to partake of any meal at which one is present or which one 
has seen in preparation.^^ 

The obligation to give is no less important. If we under- 
stood this, we should also know how men came to exchange 
things with each other. We merely point out a few facts. To 
refuse to give, or to fail to invite, is — like refusing to accept — 
the equivalent of a declaration of war; it is a refusal of friend- 
ship and intercourse.^' Again, one gives because one is forced 
to do so, because the recipient has a sort of pro prietary right 
over everything which belongs to the donor.^^ This right is 
expressed and conceived as a sort of spiritual bond. Thus in 
Australia the man who owes all the game he kills to his father- 
and mother-in-law may eat nothing in their presence for 
fear that their very breath should poison his food.^* We have 
seen above that the taonga sister's son has customs of this kind 
in Samoa, which are comparable with those of the sister's son 
{vasu) in Fiji.*" 

In all these instances there is a series of rights and duties 
about consuming and repaying existing side by side with rights 
and duties about giving and receiving. The pattern of sym- 
metrical and reciprocal rights is not difficult to understand if 
we realize that it is first and foremost a pattern of spiritual 
bonds between things which are to some extent parts of persons, 
and persons and groups that behave in some measure as if they i 
were things. ' 

All these institutions reveal the same kind of social and! 
psychological pattern. Food, women, children, possessions,! 




charms, land, labour, services, religious offices, rank — every- 
thing is stuff to be given away and repaid. In perpetual 
interchange of what we may call spiritual matter, comprising 
men and things, these elements pass and repass between clans 
^and individuals, ranks, sexes and generations. 

4. Gifts to Men and Gifts to Gods 

Another theme plays its part in the economy and morality 
of the gift: that of the gift made to men in the sight of gods or 
nature. We have not undertaken the wider study necessary to 
reveal its real import; for the facts at our disposal do not all 
come from the areas to which we have limited ourselves; and 
a strongly marked mythological element which we do not yet 
fully understand prevents us from advancing a theory. We 
simply give some indications of the theme. 

In the societies of North-East Siberia '"■ and amongst the 
Eskimo of West Alaska ^^ and the Asiatic coast of the Behring 
Straits, the potlatch concerns not only men who rival each 
other in generosity, and the objects they transmit or destroy, 
and the spirits of the dead which take part in the transactions 
and whose names the men bear; it concerns nature as well. 
Exchanges between namesakes — people named after the same 
spirits — incite the spirits of the dead, of gods, animals and 
natural objects to be generous towards them.*^ Men say that 
gift-exchange brings abundance of wealth. Nelson and Porter 
have given us good descriptions of these ceremonies and the 
effect they have on the dead, on the game, the fish and shell- 
fish of the Eskimo. They are expressively called, in the language 
of British trappers, the 'Asking Festival' or the 'Inviting-in 
Festival'.** Ordinarily they are not confined within the hmits 
of winter settlements. The effect upon nature has been well 
shown in a recent work on the Eskimo.*^ 

The Yuit have a mechanism, a wheel decorated with all 
manner of provisions, carried on a greasy pole surmounted 
with the head of a walrus. The top of the pole protrudes above 
the tent of which it forms the centre. Inside the tent it is 


manoeuvred by means of another wheel and is made to turn 
clockwise like the sun. It would be hard to find a better 
expression of this mode of thought.*^ 

The theme is also to be found with the Koryak and Ghuk- 
chee of the extreme north-west of Siberia.*' Both have the 
potlatch. But it is the maritime Chukchee who, like their 
Yuit neighbours, practise most the obligatory-voluntary gift- 
exchanges in the course of protracted thanksgiving ceremonies 
which follow one after the other in every house throughout the 
winter. The remains of the festival sacrifice are thrown into 
the sea or cast to the winds; they return to their original home, 
taking with them all the game killed that year, ready to return 
again in the next. Jochelsen mentions festivals of the same kind 
among the Koryak, although he was present only at the whale 
festival. The system of sacrifice seems there to be very highly 

Bogoras rightly compares these with the Russian koliada 
customs in which masked children go from house to house 
begging eggs and flour and none dare refuse them. This is a 
European custom.*^ 

The connection of exchange contracts among men with 
those between men and gods explains a whole aspect of the 
theory of sacrifice. It is best seen in those societies where 
contractual and economic ritual is practised between men. 
Where the men are masked incarnations, often shamanistic, 
being possessed by the spirit whose name they bear, they act 
as representatives of the spirits.^" In that case the exchanges 
and contracts concern not only men and things but also the 
sacred beings that are associated with them.^^ This is very 
evident in Eskimo, Tlingit, and one of the two kinds of Haida 

There has been a natural evolution. Among the first groups 
of beings with whom men must have made contracts were the 
spirits of the dead and the gods. They in fact are the real 
owners of the world's wealth. ^^ With them it was particularly 
necessary to exchange and particularly dangerous not to; but, 
on the other hand, with them exchange was easiest and safest. 


Sacrificial destruction implies giving something that is to be 
repaid. All forms of North-West American and North-East 
Asian potlatch contain this element of destruction. ^^ It is not 
simply to show power and wealth and unselfishness that a man 
puts his slaves to death, burns his precious oil, throws coppers 
into the sea, and sets his house on fire. In doing this he is also 
sacrificing to the gods and spirits, who appear incarnate in the 
men who are at once their namesakes and ritual allies. 

But another theme appears which does not require this 
human support, and which may be as old as the potlatch itself: 
the belief that one has to buy from the gods and that the gods 
know how to repay the price. This is expressed typically by 
the Toradja of the Celebes. Kruyt tells us that the 'owner' can 
'buy' from the spirits the right to do certain things with his or 
rather 'their' property. Before he cuts his wood or digs his 
garden or stakes out his house he must make a payment to the 
gods. Thus although the notion of purchase seems to be little 
developed in the personal economic life of the Toradja, never- 
theless, the idea of purchase from gods and spirits is universally 

With regard to certain forms of exchange which we describe 
later Malinowski remarks on facts of the same order from the 
Trobriands. A malignant spirit is evoked — a tauvau whose body 
has been found in a snake or a land crab — by means of giving 
it vaygu'a (a precious object used in kula exchanges, at once 
ornament, charm and valuable). This gift has a direct effect on 
the spirit of the tauvau.^^ Again at the mila-mila festival,^® a 
potlatch in honour of the dead, the two kinds of vaygxCa — the 
kula ones and those which Malinowski now describes for the 
first time as 'permanent' vaygu'a ^' — are exposed and offered up 
to the spirits, who take the shades of them away to the country 
of the dead; ^^ there the spirits rival each other in wealth as 
men do on their return from a solemn kula.^^ 

Van Ossenbruggen, who is both a theorist and a distin- 
guished observer, and who lives on the spot, has noted another 
point about these institutions.®" Gifts to men and to gods have/ 
the further aim of buying peace. In this way evil influences are 


kept at bay, even when not personified; for a human curse 
will allow these jealous spirits to enter and kill you and permit 
evil influences to act, and if you commit a fault towards another 
man you become powerless against them. Van Ossenbruggen 
interprets in this way not only the throwing of money over the 
wedding procession in China, but even bridewealth itself. This 
is an interesting suggestion which raises a series of points.®^ 

We see how it might be possible to embark upon a theory 
and history of contractual sacnHce. Now this sacrifice pre- 
supposes institutions of the type we are describing, and con- 
versely it realizes them to the full, for the gods who give and 
repay are there to give something great in exchange for 
something small. Perhaps then it is not the result of pure chance ^^ 
that the two solemn formulas of contract, the Latin do ut des 
and the Sanskrit dadami se, dehi me have come down to us 
through religious texts.*^ 

A further note: on Alms 

Later in legal and religious evolution man appears once 
more as representative of the gods and the dead, if indeed he 
had ever ceased to be so. For instance among the Hausa there 
is often a fever epidemic when the guinea-corn is ripe, and the 
only way to prevent it is to give presents of wheat to the poor.*^ 
Again, among the Hausa of Tripolitania, at the time of the 
great prayer {Baban Salld), the children go round the huts 
saying: 'Shall I enter?' The reply is: 'Oh prick-eared hare, for 
a bone one gets service' (the poor man is happy to work for the 
rich). These gifts to children and poor people are pleasing to 
the dead.** These customs may be Islamic in origin,** or 
Islamic, Negro, European and Berber at the same time. 

Here at any rate is the beginning of a theory of alms. Alms \ 
are the result on the one hand of a moral idea about gifts and 
wealth ** and on the other of an idea about sacrifice. Generos- 
ity is necessary because otherwise Nemesis will take vengeance 
upon the excessive wealth and happiness of the rich by giving 
to the poor and the gods. It is the old gift morality raised to 
the position of a principle of justice; the gods and spirits 


consent that the portion reserved for them and destroyed in 
useless sacrifice should go to the poor and the children. Origin- 
ally the Arabic sadaka meant, like the Hebrew zedaqa, exclusively 
justice, and it later came to mean alms. We can say that the 
Mishnic era, the time of the victory of the Paupers at Jerusalem, 
begot the doctrine of charity and alms which later went round 
the world with Christianity and Islam. It was at this time that 
the word zedaqa changed its meaning, since it does not mean 
alms in The Bible ^'' 

The value of the documents and commentaries we have 
quoted in this chapter is not merely local. Comparison takes us 
farther afield. For we can say that the basic elements of the 
potlatch are found in Polynesia even if the complete institution 
is not found there; ^® in any event gift-exchange is the rule. 
But to emphasize this theme would simply be a show of 
erudition if it did not extend beyond Polynesia. Let us now 
shift the subject and demonstrate that at least the obligation to 
give has a much wider distribution. Then we shall show the 
distribution of the other types of obligation and demonstrate 
that our interpretation is valid for several other groups of 



THE facts here presented are drawn from various ethno- 
graphic areas, whose connecting links it is not our 
business to follow. From the ethnological point of view 
the existence of common potlatch traits in the Pacific, in North 
America and even in North Asia may be readily explained. 
But the existence of a form of potlatch among pygmies is 
strange, and no less puzzling are the traces of an Indo-European 
potlatch. We abstain from all considerations of the method by 
which the institution has spread. It would be naive and 
dangerous to talk of borrowing or independent invention. 
Moreover, the maps which have been drawn for the sake of 
such arguments represent no more than our present knowledge 
or ignorance. Let us then for the moment content ourselves 
with demonstrating the nature and wide distribution of 
a single theme. It is for others to reconstruct its history if 
they can. n^j^^ 

I. Rules of Generosity (Andaman Islands) 

Customs of the kind we are discussing are found with the 

pygmies who, according to Pater Schmidt,^ are the most 

primitive of men. In 1906 Radcliffe-Brown observed facts of 

this order in North Andaman, and described them admirably 

with reference to inter-group hospitality, visits, festivals and 

fairs, which present the opportunity for voluntary-obligatory 

exchanges — in this case ofpchre and n;iaritime produce against 

the produce of the chasfi^ 'Despite the importance of these 

exchanges, 'as each local group and indeed each family was 

able to provide itself with everything that it needed in the way 



of weapons and utensils . . , the exchange of presents did not 
serve the same purpose as trade or barter in more developed 
communities. The purpose that it did serve was a moral one. 
The object of the exchange was to produce a friendly feeling 
between the two persons concerned, and unless it did this it 
failed of its purpose. . . .''No one was free to refuse a present 

offered to him. Each man and woman tried to outdo the others 

" "^ . 

in generosity. There was a sort of amiable rivalry as to 
who'could give away the greatest nunlber of most valuable 
presents.' ^ The gifts put a seal to marriage, forming a friendly 
relationship between the two sets of relatives. They give the 
two sides an identity which is revealed in the taboo which from 
then on prevents them from visiting or addressing each other, 
and in the obhgation upon them thereafter to make perpetual 
gift-exchange.* The taboo expresses both the intimacy and the 
fear which arise from this reciprocal creditor-debtor relation- 
ship. This is clearly the principle involved since the same taboo, 
implying simultaneous intimacy and distance, exists between 
young people of both sexes who have passed through the turtle- 
and pig-eating ceremonies together,^ and who are Hkewise 
obliged to exchange presents for the rest of their lives. Australia 
also provides facts of this kind.* Radcliffe-Brown mentions 
rites of reunion — embracing and weeping — and shows how 
the exchange of presents is the equivalent of this,' and 
how sentiments and persons are mingled.^ This confusion of 
personalities and things is precisely the mark of exchange 
contracts^ " 

2. Principles, Motives and Intensity of Gift Exchange 


We saw that the^s^Ielanesian^^have preserved the potlatch 
better or developed it more highly than th^ Polynesians^^The 
same is true throughout the whole field of gift-exchange. In 
Melanesia also the notion of money appears more clearly," and 
while the system is more complex it is easier to understand. 


New Caledonia 

In Leenhardt's documents from Ne w Cale donia can be seen 
the ideas and modes of expression to which we have been 
drawing attention. His prehminary description of the pilu-pilu 
and the system of feasts, gifts and prestations of all kinds, 
including money,^" clearly qualifies them as potlatch. The 
statements on custom in the formal discourses of the heralds 
are quite typical. Thus at the start of the ceremonial presenta- 
tion of yams ^^ the herald says: Tf there is some old pilu which 
we have not seen in the country of the Wi . . . this yam will 
speed there just as formerly such a yam came from thence to 
us.' ^2 Later in the same speech the spirits of the ancestors are 
said to make the effects of their action and power felt upon 
the food. 'Today appears the result of the act which you have 
accomplished. All the generations have appeared in its mouth.' 
There is another no less graphic way of expressing the link: 
'Our feasts are the movement of the needle which sews together 
the parts of our reed roofs, making of them a single roof, one 
single word.' ^^ The same things (the same thread) return.^* 
Other authors have mentioned facts of this kind.^^ 

Trobriand Islands 

At the other side of the Melanesian world there is a highly 
evolved system like that of New Caledonia. The Trobrianders 
are among the most advanced of these peoples. Today as 
prosperous pearl fishers, and before the arrival of Europeans as 
flourishing potters and stone workers, they have always been 
good business men and sturdy sailors. Malinowski compares 
them with the companions of Jason and names them well the 
(Argonauts of the Western Pacific'. In his book of this name, 
which stands among the best works of descriptive sociology, 
he treats the subject with which we are concerned, describing 
the whole system of inter-tribal and intra-tribal commerce 
k nown as the ku la}^ We stilT await a full description of their 
most important institutions, of marriage, funeral ceremonies, 
initiation, etc., and hence our present remarks are only 
provisional. But already we have some definite facts of 
capital importance.^' 


The kula is a kind of grand potlatch; it is the vehicle of a 

great inter-tribal trade extending over all the TroSriands, part 

of the d'Entrecasteaux group and part of the Amphletts. It 

has indirect influence on all the tribes and immediate influence 

on some: Dobu in the Amphletts; Kiriwina, Sinaketa and 

Kitava in the Trobriands; and Vakuta on Woodlark Island. 

I Malinowski does not translate the word, which probably, 

however, means 'ring' ; and in fact it seems as if all these tribes, 

i the sea journeys, the precious objects, the food and feasts, the 

1 economic, ritual and sexual services, the men and the women, 

jwere caught in a ring around which they kept up a regular 

'movement in time and space. 

Kula trade is. aristocratic. It seems to be reserved for the 
chiefs, who are cmHs oftlie kula fleet and canoes, traders for 
their vassals (children and brothers-in-law) and, apparently, 
chiefs over a number of vassal villages. The trade is carried out 
in noble fashion, disinterestedly and modestly.^' It is dis- 
tinguished from the ' straightfor ward exchange of useful g oods 
known as the giThwati7^^T\^s\'& carried~oiras~well as the kula 
in the great~~pnmitive fairs which mark inter-tribal kula 
gatherings and in the little kula markets of the interior; gimwali, 
however, is distinguished by most tenacious bargaining on both 
sides, a procedure unworthy of the kula. It is said of the indi- 
vidual who does not behave in his kula with proper magnani- 
mity that he is conducting it 'as a gimwalV. In appearance at 
any rate, thtkuJta, hkejhe American podatch, consists in giving 
and receiyingj^" the donors on one qccasioiL being the recipients 
on the next. Even in the largest, most solemn and highly com- 
petitive form of kula,^^ that of the great maritime expeditions 
(uvalaku), the rule is to set out with nothing to exchange or even 
to give in return for food (for which of course it is improper to 
ask). On these visits one is recipient only, and it is when the, 
visiting tribes the following year become the hosts that gifts are/ 
repaid with interest. 1 

With the lesser kula^^ however, the sea voyage also serves 
as an opportunity for exchange of cargoes ; the nobles them- 
selves do business; numerous objects are solicitcd,^^ demanded 


and exchanged, and many relationships are established in 
addition to kula ones; but the kula remains the most important 
reason for the expeditions and the relationships set up. 

The cer emon y of transfer is done with k^lemnity. The object 
given is disdained or suspect; ft is not accepted until it is thrown 
on the ground. The donor affects an exaggerated modesty. 
Solemnly bearing his gift, accompanied by the blowing of a 
conch-shell, he apologizes for bringing only his leavings and 
~tllfows~lhc object at his partner's feet.*^ Meanwhile the gonclL > 
and the (herald -proclaim to one and all the dignity of the 
occasion. Pains are taken to show one's freedom and autonomy 
as well as one'<§ magnaniniity,'^* yet all the time one is actuated 
by the mechanisms of obligation which are resident in the 
gifts themselves. 

The most important things exchanged are vaygu'a, a kind 
of currency. 2^ * These are of two sorts: mwali, the finely cut and 
polished armshells worn on great occasions by their owners or 
relatives, and the soulava, necklaces worked by the skilful 
turners of Sinaketa in handsome red spondylus shell. These are 
worn by women, 2* and only rarely by men, for example, during 
sickness. Normally they are hoarded and kept for the joy of 
having. The manufacture of the one, and the gathering of the 
other, and the trading of these objects of prestige and exchange 
form, along with other more common and vulgar pursuits, the 
source of Trobriand wealth. , ,^^ ;,, , , 

According to Malinowski these vaygu'a go in a sort of 
circular movement, the armshells passing regularly from west 
to east, and the necklaces from east to west.^' These two opposite 
movements take place between the d'Entrecasteaux group, the 
Amphletts, and the isolated islands of Woodlark, Marshall 
Bennett and Tubetube, and finally the extreme south-east 
coast of New Guinea, where the unpolished armshells come 
from. There this trade meets the great expeditions of the same 
nature from South Massim described by Seligman.'^^ 

* See page 93 for the important note on the principle adopted in 
discussing the idea of money. 


In theory these valuables never stop circulating. It is wrong 
to keep them too long or to be 'slow' and 'hard' with them; 
they are passed on only to predetermined partners in the arm- 
shell or necklace direction.^® They may be kept from one kula 
to the next while the community gloats over the vaygu'a which 
its chief has obtained. Although there are occasions, such as the 
preparation of funeral feasts, when it is permitted to receive 
and to pay nothing,^" these are no more than a prelude to the 
feast at which everything is repaid. 

The gift received is in fact owned, but the ownership is of 

a particular kind. One might say that it includes many legal 

principles which we moderns have isolated from one another. 

! It is at the same time property and a possession, a pledge and 

a loan, an object sold and an object bought, a deposit, a 

jniandate, a trust; for it is given only on condition that it will be 

jused on behalf of, or transmitted to, a third person, the remote 

jpartner {murimuri) .^^ Such is the economic, legal and moral 

complex, of quite a typical kind, that Malinowski discovered 

I and described. 

This institution also has its mythical, religious and magical 
aspects. Vaygu'a are not indifferent things; they are mor^^an 
mere coins. All of them, at least the most valuable and most 
coveted, ^^ have a name,^^ a personality, a past, and even a 
legend attached to them, to such an extent that people may 
be named after them. One cannot say that they are actually 
the object of a cult, for the Trobrianders are t^ositivists in their 
way. But it is impossible not to recognize their superior and 
sacred .nature. To possess one is 'exhilarating, comforting, 
soothing in itself'.^* Their owners handle them and gaze at 
them for hours. Mere contact with them is enough to make 
them transmit their virtues.^^ You place a vaygu'a on the brow 
or the chest of a sick man, or dangle it before his face. It is his 
supreme balm. 

But more than that, the contract itself partakes of the nature 
of the vaygu'a. Not only armshells and necklaces, but also goods, 
ornaments, weapons, and everything belonging to the partner, 
are so alive with feeling, if not with personality, that they have 


their part in the contract as well.^^ A fine formula, the 'spell 
of the conch-shellV is used after invoking them to charm or 
attract towards the partner the things he means to ask and 
receive.^^ '[A state of excitement ^^ seizes my partner.] *" A 
state of excitement seizes his dog, his belt, his gwara [taboo on 
cocoanuts and betelnuts],^ his bagidou necklace, his bagiriku 
necklace, his bagidudu necklace. . . .' ^^ 

Another more mythical spell expresses the same idea. The 
kula partner is an animal, a crocodile which he invokes to bring 
him necklaces. ^^ 

'Crocodile, fall down, take thy man, push him down 
under the gebobbo [part of the canoe where the cargo is 

'Crocodile, bring me the necklace, bring me the 
bagidou, the bagiriku. . . .' 
A previous spell in the same ritual invokes a bird of prey.** 

The last spell of the partners in Dobu or Kitava, by the 
people of Kiriwina, contains a couplet of which two interpre- 
tations are given. *^ The ritual is very long and is repeated many 
times; its purpose is to enumerate everything forbidden in the 
kula, everything to do with hatred and war which must be 
conjured away so that trade can take place between friends. 
'Thy fury, the dog sniffs. 
Thy warpaint, the dog sniffs. . . .' 
Other versions say : 

'Thy fury, the dog is docile. . . .' 

'Thy fury ebbs, it ebbs away, the dog plays about, 
Thy anger ebbs. . . .' 
This means: 'Thy fury becomes like the dog that plays about.' 
The point is the metaphor of the dog that rises and Ucks its 
master's hand. The Dobuan and his wife should then act in this 
way. The second interpretation — according to Malinowski 
somewhat sophisticated and academic, but indigenous all the 
same — gives a commentary which is more in keeping with what 
we know already: 'The dogs play nose to nose. When you 
mention the word dog, the precious objects also come to play. 


We have given armshells, and necklaces will come, and they 
will meet, like dogs which come to sniff.' The expression and 
metaphor are neat. All the sentiments are seen at once: the I 
possible hatred of the partners, the vaygu'a being charmed j 
from their hiding-places; men and precious objects gathering/ 
together like dogs that play and run about at the sound of a 
man's voice. ~ ~ 

Another symbolic expression is that of the marriage of 
armshells, female symbols, with necklaces, male symbols, 
attracted towards each other like male and female.** These 
various metaphors mean exactly what Maori customary beliefs 
denote in other terms. Once again it is the confusion of objects, [ 
values, contracts and men which finds expression.*' 

Unfortunately we know very little about the sanction 
behind these transactions. Either it was badly formulated by 
the people of Kiriwina, Malinowski's informants, or else it is 
quite clear to the Trobrianders and only needs further research. 
We have only a few details. The first gift of a vaygvUa has the 
name of i/a^flj,.ppening^gift.*^ It definitely binds the recipient to 
make a J"eturn gift, the^o/f/^, well translated by Malinowski as 
the ' clinch iog, gift J-. * ° Another name for this \s kudu, the tooth 
which bites, severs and liberates. *° It is obligatory; it is expected 
and must be equivalent to the first gift; it may be taken by 
force or surprise. ^^ One can avenge non-payment by magic ^^ 
or a show of resentment if the yotile does not come up to 
expectations. If one is unable to repay, one may, if necessary, 
offer a basi^ a tooth which does not bite right through but only 
piercesTheTkin and leaves the transaction unfinished. It is a 
temporary affair, the interest on an overdue payment, and 
although it appeases the creditor it does not absolve the 
debtor.^^ These details are interesting and the expressions are 
clear, but the sanction is not at all evident. Is it only mystical 
and moral ? ^* Is the man who is 'hard' in the kula only scorned 
and bewitched ? Does not the unfaithful partner lose something 
else — his rank or at least his position among chiefs? This is 
something we are not told. 

From another angle the institution is typical. Except in old 


Germanic custom we have found no system of gift exchange i 
more clear or complete and also better understood both by 
participants and observer than that described by Malinowski 1 
for the Trobrianders.^^ 

The kula in its essential form is itself only the most solemn 
part of a vast system of prestations and counter-prestations 
which seem to embrace the whole social life of the Trobrianders. 
The kula (particularly the inter-island form) appears to be 
merely the crowning episode of this life. Although it forms one 
of the great interests of all Trobrianders, and is one of the main 
reasons for the great expeditions, it is only chiefs, and maritime 
chiefs at that, who take part in it.. The kula is th e gatherin g 
point o f many other institutions. 

The exchange of vaygu^a is set amidst a series of different 
kinds of exchange, ranging from barter to wage-payment, from 
solicitation to courtesy, from hospitality to reticence and shame. 
In the first place, except for the uvalaku, the great expeditions 
of a purely ceremonial and competitive nature, all kula trans- 
actions are an opp ortunity for ordinary exchange, gimwali, 
which does not necessarily take place between established 
partners. ^^ Alongside the established partnerships there is an 
open market between persons of allied tribes. And then between 
kula partners there pass supplementary gifts in an unbroken 
chain. The kula demands them. The association or partnership 
it sets up and through which it functions starts with a prelimi- 
nary gift, the vaga, which is strenuously sought after by means 
of solicitory gifts. To obtain this vaga a man may flatter his 
future partner, who is still independent, and to whom he is 
making a preliminary series of presents.^' Although one is 
certain that the yotile, the cHnching gift, will be returned, one 
can never say whether the vaga will be given in the first place 
or whether even the ^olicitory. gifts will be accepted. This 
manner of soliciting and receiving is the rule. Gifts thus mad^ 
have a special name, in this case pari.^^ They are laid out 
before being presented. Others have names signifying the noble 
and magical nature of the objects offered.^® To receive one of 
these gifts means that one is desirous of e ntering into and 



remaining in part nership. Some gifts of this kind have titles 
which express the legal implications of their acceptance,*" in 
which case the affair is considered to be settled. The gift is 
normally an object of some value, like a large polished stone 
axe or whalebone knife. To receive it is actually to commit 
oneself to return the vaga, the first desirable gift. But still one 
is only Balf a partner. It.is_the solemn handing over of the vaga 
which finally fixes ^he partnership. The importance of these 
gifts arises from the extraordinary competition which exists 
among members of an expedition. They seek out the best 
possible partner in the other tribe. For the cause is a great one; 
the association made establishes a kind of clan link between 
partners.*^ To get your man you have to seduce him and dazzle 
him.^^ While paying proper regard to rank,^^ you must get in 
before the others and make exchanges of the most valuable 
[things — naturally the property of the richest man. The under-/ 
I lying motives are competition, rivalry, show, and a desire fori 
! greatness and wealth.®* 

These are the arrival gifts; there are other analogous gifts 
of departure, called talo'i on Sinaketa,®^ and of leave-taking; 
they are always superior to the gifts of arrival. Here again the 
cycle of prestations and counter-prestations with interest is 
accomplished alongside the kula. 

Naturally at the time of these transactions there are 
prestations of hospitality, of food, and, on Sinaketa, of women. 
Finally there are continual supplementary gifts, always 
regularly repaid. It even seems that these kortumna represent a 
primitive form of the kula since they consist of the exchange of 
stone axes and boars' teeth.®® 

In our view the whole inter-tribal kula is an exaggerated 
case, the most dignified and dramatic example, of a general 
system. It takes the whole tribe out of the narrow circle of its 
own frontiers. The same holds also for the clans and villages 
within the tribes, which are bound by links of the same sort. 
In this case it is only the local and domestic group and their 
chiefs which go out to pay visits, do business, and intermarry. 
Perhaps it is not proper to call this kula. Malinowski, however, 


rightly speaks, in contrast to the maritime kula, of the kula of 
the interior and oi kula communities which provide their chiefs 
with articles for exchange. It is no exaggeration to speak in 
these cases of the real potlatch. For instance, the visits of the 
Kiriwina people to Kitava for mortuary ceremonies {s'oi) *' 
involve more than the exchange oi vaygu'a; there is a feigned 
attack [youlawada) ,^^ a distribution of food, and a display of 
pigs and yams. 

The vaygu'd are not always acquired,®^ manufactured,'" 
and exchanged by the chiefs in person. Most of them come to 
the chiefs as gifts from their vassal relatives of inferior rank, 
particularly brothers-in-law, or from sons with their own fiefs^ 
elsewhere.'^ And then on the return of the expedition the 
vaygu'd are solemnly handed over to the village chiefs, the clan 
chiefs or even to commoners of the clans concerned : in short, 
to whomsoever has taken part, however indirectly, in the 
expedition. '2 

Lastly, alongside the internal kula, the system of gift- 
exchange pervades the whole economic life of the Trobriands. 
I Social life is a constant give-and-take; " gifts are rendered, 
received and repaid both obligatorily and in one's own interest, 
I In magnanimity, for repayment of services, or as challenges or 
pledges. We here set down a few of the most important forms 
they take. 

A relationship analogous to the kula is that of the wasi. '^ 
This sets up regular and obligatory exchanges between partners, 
between agricultural tribes on the one hand and maritime 
trihes^njthe other. The agricultural partner places produce in 
front of the house of his fisherman associate. The latter, after a 
great fishing expedition, makes return with interest, giving his 
partner in the agricultural village the product of his catch. '^ 
Here is the same principle of division of labour as we noticed 
in New Zealand. 

Another remarkable form of exchange ta kes the form of 
display. ! ! This is sagali, a great and frequent distribution of 
food, made at harvests, during the construction of the chief's 
house, the building of canoes and funeral ceremonies." The 

.;,., '^- ' -- 


distribution is made to groups that have given their services 
to the chief or to his clan by means of their crops, or house- 
beams, or the transport of heavy tree-trunks for canoe-building, 
or else by services rendered at a funeral by the dead man's 
clan, and so on.'^ These distributions are in every way similar 
to the Kwakiutl potlatch, even to the elements of combat and 
rivalry. Clans and phratries and allied families confront one 
another and the transactions are group affairs, at least so long 
as the chief restrains himself. 

These group rights and collective economic factors are 
already some way distant from the kula, as are all individual 
exchange relationships. Some of the latter may be of the order 
of simple barter. However, since this simple barter takes place 
only between relatives, close allies or kula or wasi partners, it 
hardly seems that exchange even here is really free. Moreover, 
what one receives, no matter by what means, one may not 
keep for oneself unless it is quite impossible to do without it. 
Ordinarily it is passed to someone else, a brother-in-law 
perhaps.'* It may happen that the very things which one has 
received and given away will be returned on the same day. 

Returns of prestations of all kinds, of goods or services, fall 
into the same categories. Here are some presented in no special 

The pokala *" and kaributu,^^ solicitory gifts, which we saw 
in the kula, are species of a much wider genus which corresponds 
fairly closely to what we know as wages. They are offered to 
gods and spirits. Another generic name for the same is vakapula 
or mapula ; ^^ these are tokens of recognition and welcome and 
they too must be repaid. In this regard Malinowski makes what 
we believe to be an important discovery which explains econo- 
mic and legal relationships between the sexes in marriage; ^^ 
services of all kinds given to the woman by her husband are con- 
sidered as a gift-payment for the service the woman renders O ^ 
when she lends him what the Koran calls 'the field'. Cy-v^^A. s^y^^KX 

The somewhat immature legal language of the Trobrianders 
has multiplied the names distinguishing all kinds of prestations 
and counter-prestations according to the name of the prestation 


repaid,^* the thing given, ^^ the circumstances,®^ and so on. 
Certain names cover all these considerations: for example, the 
gift to a magician or for the acquisition of a title is known as 
laga.^'' It is hard to say just how far the vocabulary has been 
complicated by a strange incapacity for abstraction, and by 
odd embellishments in the nomenclature. 

Other Melanesian Societies 

It is unnecessary to multiply the comparisons from many 
other Melanesian peoples. However, some details may be taken 
from here and there to strengthen the case and show that the 
Trobrianders and New Caledonians are not abnormal in 
having evolved a principle which is strange to other related 

In the extreme south of Melanesia, in fjFiji, where we have 
already identified the potlatch, there are other noteworthy 
institutions belonging to the gift system. There is a season, the 
kerekere, when it is forbidden to refuse a man anything. ^^ Gifts 
are exchanged between families at marriages, etc.®^ Moreover 
Fijian money, cachalot teeth, is the same as that of the Tro- 
brianders. It is known as tambua. This is supplemented by stones 
('mothers' of the teeth), and ornaments, mascots, talismans and 
lucky charms of the tribe. The sentiments of the Fijians in 
regard to the tambua are the same as those just described: 'They 
are regarded by their owners very much as a girl regards her 
dolls. They like to take them out and admire and talk about 
their beauty; they have a "mother," who is continually being 
oiled and polished.' Their presentation is a request, and their 
acceptance a pledge.*" 

The Melanesians of New Guinea and the Papuans influ- 
enced by them call their money tautau; ^^ it is of the same kind 
and the object of the same beliefs, as that of the Trobriands.*^ 
We should compare this name with tahutahu which means a 
loan of pigs (Motu and Koita).*^ Now this word is famihar to 
us as the Polynesian term, the root of the word taonga of Samoa 
and New Zealand — jewels and property incorporated in the 


family.^* The words themselves are Polynesian like the 
objects. ^* 

We know that the Melanesians and Papuans of New Guinea 
have the potlatch.^^ 

The fine documentation by Thurnwald on the tribes of 
Buin ^' and the Banaro ^^ have already furnished us with 
points of comparison. The sacred character of the things 
exchanged is evident, in particular in the case of money and 
the way it is given in return for wives, love, songs and services; 
as in the Trobriands it is a sort of pledge. Thurnwald has 
analysed too one of the facts which best illustrates this system 
of reciprocal gifts and the nature of the misnamed 'marriage 
by purchase'. ^^ In reality, this includes prestations from all 
sides, including the bride's family, and a wife is sent back if her 
relatives have not offered sufficient gifts in return. 

In short this whole island world, and probably also the 
parts of South-East Asia related to it, reveal similar institutions. 
Thus the view which we must adopt regarding these Melan- 
esian peoples, who are even wealthier and more commercially 
inclined than the Polynesians, is very different from the view 
which is normally taken. They have an extra-domestic economy 
and a highly developed exchange system, and are busier 
commercially than French peasants and fishermen have been 
for the past hundred years. They have an extensive economic 
life and a considerable trade that cuts across geographical 
and linguistic boundaries. They replace our system of sale and 
purchase with one of gifts and return gifts. 

In this type of economy, and in the Germanic as we shall 
see, there is an incapacity to abstract and analyse concepts. 
But this is unnecessary. In these societies groups cannot analyse 
themselves or their actions, and influential individuals, however 
comprehending they may be, do not reahze that they have to 
oppose each other. The chief is confounded with his clan and 
his clan with him, and individuals feel themselves to act only 
in one way. Holmes makes the acute observation that the 
Toaripi and Namau languages, the one Papuan and the other 
Melanesian, which he knew at the mouth of the Finke, have 



'only a single word to cover buy and sell, borrow and lend'. 
Antithetical operations are expressed by the same word. 
'Strictly speaking, the natives did not borrow and lend in the 
manner that we do, but something was always in the form of 
a honorarium for the loan when it was returned.' ^°° These 
men have neither the notion of selling nor the notion of lending, 
and yet carry out the legal and economic activities corre- 
sponding to these words. 

Nor is the notion of barter any more natural to the Melan- 
esians than it is to the Polynesians. Kruyt, one of the better 
ethnographers, while using the word 'sale', describes exactly 
this state of mind among the inhabitants of Central Celebes.^"^ 
And yet these Toradja have long been in contact with the 
Malays who are well known for their trading. 

Thus we see that a part of mankind, wealthy, hard-working 
and creating large surpluses, exchanges vast amounts in ways 
and for rea sons other thanjjiose with which we are familiar 
from our own societies. 

3. Honour and Credit (North- West America) 

From these observations on Melanesian and Polynesian 
peoples our picture of gift economy is already beginning to 
take shape. Material and moral life, as exemplified in gift- 
exchange, functions there in a manner at once interested and 
obligatory. Furthermore, the obligation is expressed in myth 
and imagery, symbolically and collectively; it takes the form 
of interest in the objects exchanged; the objects are never 
completely separated from the men who exchange them; the 
communion and alliance thex establish are well-nigh indis- 
soluble. The lasting influence of the objects exchanged is a 
direct expression of the manner in which sub-groups within 
segmentary societies of an archaic type are constantly embroiled 
with and feel themselves in debt to each other. 

Indian societies of the American North- West have the same 
institutions, but in a more radical and accentuated form. 
Barter is unknown there. Even now after long contact with 


Europeans it does not appear that any of the considerable and 
continual transfers of wealth take place otherwise than through 
the formality of the potlatch.^"^ We now describe this institution 
as we see it. 

First, however, we give a short account of these societies. 
The tribes in question inhabit the North West American coast 
— the Tlingit and Haida of Alaska,^°^ and the Tsimshian and 
Kwakiutl of British Columbia.^°* They live on the sea or on 
the rivers and depend more on fishing than on hunting for their 
livelihood; but in contrast to the Melanesians and Polynesians 
they do not practise agriculture. Yet they are very wealthy, 
and even at the present day their fishing, hunting and trapping 
activities yield surpluses which are considerable even when 
reckoned on the European scale. They have the most substantial 
houses of all the American tribes, and a highly evolved cedar 
industry. Their canoes are good; and although they seldom 
venture out on to the open sea they are skilful in navigating 
around their islands and in coastal waters. They have a high 
standard of material culture. In particular, even back in the 
eighteenth century, they collected, smelted, moulded and beat 
local copper from Tsimshian and Tlingit country. Some of the 
copper in the form of decorated shields they used as a kind of 
currency. Almost certainly another form of currency was the 
beautifully embellished Chilkat blanket-work still used orna- 
mentally, some of it being of considerable value.^"^ The peoples 
are excellent carvers and craftsmen. Their pipes, clubs and 
sticks are the pride of our ethnological collections. Within 
broad limits this civilization is remarkably uniform. It is clear 
that the societies have been in contact with each other from 
very early days, although their languages suggest that they 
belong to at least three families of peoples.^"® 

Their winter life, even with the southern tribes, is very 
different frorn_their summer life. The tribes have a two-fold 
structure: at the end of spring they disperse and go hunting, 
collect berries from the hillsides and fish the rivers for salmon; 
while in winter they concentrate in what are known as towns. 
During this period of concentration they are in a perpetual 


State of effervescence. The social life becomes intense in the 
extreme, ^ven more so than in the concentrations of tribes that 
manage to form in the summer. This lite consists of continual 
movement. There are constant visits of whole tribes to others, 
of clans to clans and families to families. There is feast upon 
feast, some of long duration. On the occasion of a marriage, on 
various ritual occasions, and on social advancement, there is 
reckless consumption of everything which has been amassed 
with great industry from some of the richest coasts of the world 
during the course of summer and autumn. Even private life 
passes in this manner; clansmen are invited when a seal is 
killed or a box of roots or berries opened ; you invite everyone 
when a whale runs aground. 

Social organization, too, is fairly constant throughout the 
area thoiigh itTangeTfrom theTnatrilineal phratry (Tlingit and 
Haida) to the modified matriltneah clan of -tfae Kwakiutl ; but 
the general characters of the social organization and particu- 
larly of totemis m >rc repeated in all the tribes. They have 
associations like those of the Banks Islanders of Melanesia, 
wrongly called 'secret societies', which are often inter-tribal; 
and men's and women's societies among the Kwakiutl cut 
across tribal organization. A part of the gifts and counter- 
prestations which we shall discuss goes, as in Melanesia,^"' to 
pay Q^e's way into the successive steps ^"^ of the associations. 
Clah and association ritual follows the marriage of chiefs, the 
sale of coppers, initiations, shamanistic seances and funeral 
ceremonies, the latter being more particularly pronounced 
among the Tlingit and Haida. These are all accomplished in 
the course of an indefinitely prolonged series of potlatches. 
Potlatches are given in all directions, corresponding to other 
potlatches to which they are the response. As in Melanesia the 
process is one of constant give-and-take. 

The potlatch, so unique as a phenomenon, yet so typical of .^ 
these tribes, is really nothing other than j^ft-exchange.^" " The 
only differences are in the violence, rivalry and antagonism 
arous ed , ia -aJ[a£k_o f jural c oncepls^.andJn a simpler structure. 
It is less refined than in Melanesia, especially as regards the 


northern tribes, the Tlingit and the Haida,^^° but the collective 
nature of the contract is more pronounced than in Melanesia 
and Polynesia.^i^ Despite appearances, the institutions here are 
nearer to what we call shnple total prestations. Thus the legal 
and economic concepts attached to themTiave less clarity and 
conscious precision. Nevertheless, in action the principles 
emerge formally and clearly. 

There are two traits more in evidence here than in the 
Melanesian potlatch or in the more evolved and discrete 
institutions of Polynesia: the themes of credit and honour.^^^ 

As we have seen, when gifts circulate in Melanesia and 
Polynesia the return is assured by the virtue of the things passed 
on, which are their own guarantees. In any society ^ is in 
the nature of the gift in the end to being its own reward. By 
definition, a common meal, a distribution o{ kava, or a charm 
worn, cannot be repaid at once. Ti«i€Jias_tOL43ass^ before a 
counter-prestation can be made. Thus the notion of time is 
logically impHed when one pays a visit, contracts a marriage or 
an alliance, makes a treaty, goes to organized games, fights or 
feasts of others, renders ritual and honorific service and 'shows 
respect', to use the Tlingit term."^ All these are things ex- 
changed side by side with other material objects, and they are 
the more numerous as the society is wealthier. 

On this point, legal and economic theory is greatly at fault. 
Imbued with modern ideas, current theory tends towards 
a priori notions of evolution,^^* and claims to follow a so-called 
necessary logic; in fact, however, it remains based on old 
traditions. Nothing could be more dangerous than what 
Simiand called this 'unconscious sociology'. For instance, Cuq 
could still say in 1910: 'In primitive societies barter alone is 
found; in those more advanced, direct sale is practised. Sale 
on credit characterizes a higher stage of civilization ; it appears 
first in an indirect manner, a combination of sale and loan.' ^^^ 
In fact the origin of credit is different. It is to be found in a 
range of customs neglected by lawyers and economists as 
uninteresting: namely the gift, which is a complex phenomenon 
especially in its ancient form of total prestation, which we are 


Studying here. Now a gjft necessarily implies the notion of 
credit. Economic evolutiorTTrasTTorgone from barter to sale 
and from cash to credit. Barter arose from the system of gifts 
given and received on credit, simplified by drawing together 
the moments of time which had previously been distinct. 
Likewise purchase and sale^ — both direct sale and credit sale — 
and the loan, derive from the same source. There is nothing to 
suggest that any economic system which has passed through the 
phase we are describing was ignorant of the idea of credit, of 
which all archaic societies around us are aware. This is a 
simple and realistic manner of dealing with the problem, which 
Davy has already studied, of the 'two moments of time' which 
the contract unites.^^^ 

No less important is the role whichOionour plays in the 
transactions of the Indians. Nowhere else is"~tfie prestige of an 
individual as closely bound up with expenditure, and with the 
duty of returning with interest gifts received in such a way that 
the creditor becomes the debtor. Consumption and destruction 
are virtually unlimited. In some potlatch systems one is con- 
strained to expend everything one possesses and to keep 
nothing.^^' The rich man who shows his_w^ealth by spending 
recklessly is the man who wins prestige. The principles of 
rivalry and antagonism are basic. Political and individual 
status in associations and clans, and rank of every kind, are 
^determined by the war of property, as well as by armed 
hostiTiHes, by~charice,Tnheritance, alliance or marriage.^^^ But 
everything is conceived as if it were a war of wealth. ^^^ Marriage 
of one's children and one's position at gatherings are deter- 
mined solely in the course of the potlatch given and returned. 
Position is also lost as in war, gambling,^'^" hunting and 
wrestling.^^^ Sometimes there is no question of receiving return; 
one destroys simply in order to give the appearance that one 
has no desire to receive anything back.^^^ Whole cases of candle- 
fish or whale oil,^^^ houses, and blankets by the thousand are 
burnt; the most valuable coppers are broken and thrown into 
the sea to level and crush a rival. Progress up the social ladder 
is made in this way not only for oneself but also for one's 




family. Thus in a system of this kind much wealth is continually 

being consumed and transferred. Such transfers may if desired 

be called exchange or even commerce or sale; ^^* but it is an 

aristacraticjtyp£_af-^^n«iier£&-€4mfaet€riz€d'by" etiquette an3 

generosity; moreover^ when it is carried out in a different 

spirit, for immediate gain, it is viewed with the greatest 

We see, then, that the notion of honour, strong in Polynesia, 
and present in Melanesia, is exceptionally marked here. On 
this point the classical writings made a poor estimate of the 
motives which animate men and of all that we owe to societies 
that preceded our own. Even as informed a scholar as Huvelin 
felt obliged to deduce the notion of honour — which is reputedly 
without efficacy — from the notion of magical efficacy.^'^^ The 
truth is more complex. The notion of honour is no more foreign 
to these civilizations than the notion of magic.^^'^ Polynesian 
mana itself symbolizes not only the magical power of the person 
but also his honour, and one of the best translations of the word 
is 'authority' or 'wealth'. ^^^ The Tlingit or Haida potlatch 
consists in considering mutual services as honours.^^" Even in 
really primitive societies like the Australian, the 'point of 
honour' is as ticklish as it is in ours; and it may be satisfied by 
prestations, offerings of food, by precedence or ritual, as well 
as by gifts.^^" Men could pledge their honour long before they 
could sign their names. 

The North- West American potlatch has been studied enough 
as to the form of the contract. But we must find a place for the 
researches of Davy and Adam in the wider framework of our 
subject. For the potlatch is more than a legal phenomenon; it 
is one of those phenomena we propose to _call ' totalL It is 
-j:eligious, mythological and shamanistic because the chiefs 
taking part are incarnations of gods and ancestors, whose names 
they bear, whose dances they dance and whose spirits possess 
them.^^^ It is economic; and one has to assess the value, im- 
portance, causes and effects of transactions which are enormous 
even when reckoned by European standards. The potlatch is 
also a phenomenon of social morphology ; the reunion of tribes, 


clans, families and nations produces great excitement. People 
fraternize but at the same time remain strangers; community 
of interest and opposition are revealed constantly in a great 
whirl of business. ^^^ Finally, from the jural point of view, we 
have already noted the contractual forms and what we might 
call the human element of the contract, and the legal status of 
the contracting parties — as clans or families or with reference 
to rank or marital condition; and to this we now add that the 
material objects of the contracts have a virtue of their own 
which causes them to be given and compels the making of 

It would have been useful, if space had been available, to 
distinguish four forms of American potlatch: first, potlatch 
where the phratries and chiefs' families alone take part (Tlin- 
git) ; second, potlatches in which phratries, clans, families and 
chiefs take more or less similar roles (Haida) ; third, potlatch 
with chiefs and their clans confronting each other (Tsimshian) ; 
and fourth, potlatch of chiefs and fraternities (Kwakiutl). But 
this would prolong our argument, and in any case three of the 
four forms (with the exception of the Tsimshian) have already 
been comparatively described by Davy.^'^ But as far as our 
study is concerned all the forms are more or less identical as 
regards the elements of the gift, the obligation to receive and 
the obligation to make a return, 

4. The Three Obligations: GivIng, Receiving, 
The Obligation to Give 

This is the essence of potlatch. A chief must give a potlatch 
for himself, his son, his son-in-law or daughter ^^* and for the 
dead.^^^ He can keep his authority in his tribe, village and 
family, and maintain his position with the chiefs inside and 
outside his nation,^^^ only if he can prove that he is favourably 
regarded by the spirits, that he possesses fortune ^^' and that 
he is possessed by it.^^^ The only way to demonstrate his fortune 
is by expending it to the humiliation of others, by putting them 


'in the shadow of his name',^^' Kwakiutl and Haida noblemen 
have the same notion of 'face' as the Chinese mandarin or 
officer.^*" It is said of one of the great mythical chiefs who gave 
no feast that he had a 'rotten face'.^*^ The expression is more 
apt than it is even in China ; for to lose one's face is to lose one's 
spirit, which is truly the 'face', the dancing mask, the right to 
incarnate a spirit and wear an emblem or totem. It is the 
veritable persona which is at stake, and it can be lost in the 
potlatch ^*2 just as it can be lost in the game of gift-giving,^*' in 
war,^** or through some error in ritual.^*^ In all these societies 
one is anxious to give; there is no occasion of importance (even 
outside the solemn winter gatherings) when one is not obliged 
to invite friends to share the produce of the chase or the forest 
which the gods or totems have sent; ^*^ to redistribute every- 
thing received at a potlatch; or to recognize services^*' from 
chiefs, vassals or relatives ^*^ by means of gifts. Failing these 
obligations — at least for the nobles — etiquette is violated and 
rank is lost.^*' 

The obligation to invite is particularly evident between 
clans or between tribes. It makes sense only if the invitation is 
given to people other than members of the family, clan or 
phratry.^^" Everyone who can, will or does attend the potlatch 
must be invited.^^^ Neglect has f ateful resul ts.^^'^ An important 
Tsimshian myth ^^' shows the state of mind in which the central 
theme of much European folklore originated: the myth of the 
bad fairy neglected at a baptism or marriage. Here the institu- 
tional fabric in which it is sewn appears clearly, and we realize 
the kind of civilization in which it functioned. A princess of one 
of the Tsimshian villages conceives in the 'Country of the 
Otters' and gives birth miraculously to 'Little Otter'. She 
returns with her child to the village of her father, the chief 
Little Otter catches halibut with which her father feeds all the 
tribal chiefs. He introduces Little Otter to everyone and 
requests them not to kill him if they find him fishing in his 
animal form: 'Here is my grandson who has brought for you 
this food with which I serve you, my guests.' Thus the grand- 
father grows rich with all manner of wealth brought to him by 


the chiefs when they come in the winter hunger to eat whale 
and seal and the fresh fish caught by Little Otter. But one chief 
is not invited. And one day when the crew of a canoe of the 
neglected tribe meets Little Otter at sea the bowman kills him 
and takes the seal. The grandfather and all the tribes search 
high and low for Little Otter until they hear about the neglected 
tribe. The latter offers its excuses ; it has never heard of Little 
Otter. The princess dies of grief; the involuntarily guilty chief 
brings the grandfather all sorts of gifts in expiation. The myth 
ends: 'That is why the people have great feasts when a chief's 
son is born and gets a name; for none may be ignorant of 
him.' ^^* The potlatch — the distribution of goods— is the^ 
fundamental act of public recognition in all spheres, military, 
legal, economic and religious. The chief or his son is recognized | 
and acknowledged by the people.^^^ 

Sometimes the ritual in the feasts of the Kwakiutl and other 
tribes in the same group expresses this obligation to invite.^^* 
Part of the ceremonial opens with the 'ceremony of the dogs'. 
These are represented by masked men who come out of one 
house and force their way into another. They commemorate 
the occasion on which the people of the three other tribes of 
Kwakiutl proper neglected to invite the clan which ranked 
highest among them, the Guetela who, having no desire to 
remain outsiders, entered the dancing house and destroyed 
every thing.^^' 

The Obligation to Receive 

This is no less constraining. One does not have the right to 
refuse a gift or a potlatch. ^^^ To do so would show fear qf_ 
having to_repa^^^^nd of being abased in default. One would 
"Tose the weight' of one's name by admitting defeat in ad- 
vance.*^* In certain circumstances, however, a refusal can be an 
assertion of victory and in vin cibilit y.^^" It appears at least with 
the Kwakiutl that a recognized position in the hierarchy, or a 
victory through previous potlatches, allows one to refuse an 
invitation or even a gift without war ensuing. If this is so, then 

v/ 40 THE GIFT 

a potlatch must be carried out by the man who refuses to accept 
the invitation. More particularly, he has to contribute to the 
'fat festival' in which a ritual of refusal may be observed.^®^ 
The chief who considers himself superior refuses the spoonful of 
fat offered him: he fetches his copper and returns with it to 
'extinguish the fire' (of the fat) . A series of formalities follow 
which mark the challenge and oblige the chief who has refused 
to give another potlatch or fat festival.^^^ In principle, however, 
gifts are always accepted and praised.^^^ You must speak your 
appreciation of food prepared for you.^^* But you accept a 
challenge at the same time.^^^ You receive a gift 'on the back'. 
You accept the food and you do so because you mean to take 
up the challenge and prove that you are not unworthy.^®^ 
When chiefs confront each other in this manner they may find 
themselves in odd situations and probably they experience 
them as such. In like manner in ancient Gaul and Germany, 
as well as nowadays in gatherings of French farmers and 
students, one is pledged to swallow quantities of hquid to 'do 
honour' in grotesque fashion to the host. The obligation stands 
even although one is only heir to the man who bears the 
challenge.^® ^ Failure to give or receive,^^^ like failure to make 
return gifts, means a loss of dignity.^® ^ 

The Obligation to Repay 

Outside pure destruction the obligation to repay is the 
essence of potlatch.^ '° Destruction is very often sacrificial, 
directed towards the spirits, and apparently does not require a 
return unconditionally, especially when it is the work of a 
superior clan chief or of the chief of a clan already recognized 
as superior.^''' But normally the potlatch must be returned with 
interest like all other gifts. The interest is generally between 
30 and 100 per cent, a year. If a subject receives a blanket from 
his chief for a service rendered he will return two on the occa- 
sion of a marriage in the chief's family or on the initiation of 
the chief's son. But then the chief in his turn redistributes to 
him whatever he gets from the next potlatch at which rival clans 
repay the chief's generosity. 


The obligation of worthy return is imperative.^ '2 p^ce is 
lost for ever if it is not made or if equivalent value is not 
destroyed. ^'^ 

The sanction for the obligation to repay is enslavement for 
debt. This is so at least for the Kwakiutl, Haida and Tsimshian. 
It is an institution comparable in nature and function to the 
Roman nexum. The person who cannot return a loan or potlatch 
loses his rank and even his status of a free man. If among the 
Kwakiutl a man of poor credit has to borrow he is said to 'sell 
a slave'. We need not stress the similarity of this expression with 
the Roman one.^'^ The Haida say, as if they had invented the 
Latin phrase independently, that a girl's mother who gives a 
betrothal payment to the mother of a young chief 'puts a 
thread on him'. 

Just as the Trobriand i:zc(^s aJi.^trei»<©^-gifl: ex- 
change, so the potlatch in Nort h- West A merica is the monster 
child of the gift system. In societies of phratries, amongst the 
Tlingit and Haida, we find important traces of a former total 
prestation (which is characteristic of the Athabascans, a 
related group). Presents are exchanged on any pretext for any 
service, and everything is returned sooner or later for redis- 
tribution.^'^ The Tsimshian have almost the same rules.^" 
Among the Kwakiutl these rules, in many cases, function 
outside the potlatch.^" We shall not press this obvious point; 
old authors described the potlatch in such a- way as to make 
it doubtful whether it was or was not a distinct institution."^ 
We may recall that with the Chinook, one of the least known 
tribes but one which would repay study, the word 'potlatch' 
means 'gift'."^ 

5. The Power in Objects of Exchange 

Our analysis can be carried farther to show that in the 
things exchanged at a potlatch there is a certain power which 
forces them to circulate, to be given away and repaid. 

To begin with, the Kwakiutl and Tsimshian, and perhaps 
others, make the same distinction between the various types of 


property as do the Romans, Trobrianders and Samoans, They 
have the ordinary articles of consumption and distribution and 
perhaps also of sale (I have found no trace of barter). They 
have also the valuable family property^ — -talismans, decorated 
coppers, skin blankets and embroidered fabrics.^ ^" This class 
of articles is transmitted with that solemnity with which women 
are given in marriage, privileges are endowed on sons-in-law, 
and names and status are given to children and daughters' 
husbands,^ ^^ It is wrong to speak here of alienation, for these 
things are loaned rather than sold and ceded. Basically they 
are sacra which the family parts with, if at all, only with 

Closer observation reveals similar distinctions among the 
Haida. This tribe has in fact sacralized, in the manner of 
Antiquity, the notions of property and wealth. By a religious 
and mythological effort of a type rare enough in the Americas 
they have managed to reify an abstraction: the 'Property 
Woman', of whom we possess myths and a description.^ ^^ g^g 
is nothing less than the mother, the founding goddess of the 
dominant phratry, the Eagles. But oddly enough — a fact which 
recalls the Asiatic world and Antiquity — she appears identical 
with the 'queen', the principal piece in the game of tip-cat, 
the piece that wins everything and whose name the Property 
Woman bears. This goddess is found in Tlingit^^^ country 
and her myth, if not her cult, among the Tsimshian ^^* and 

Together these precious family articles constitute what one 
might call the magical legacy of the people; they are conceived 
as such by their owner, by the initiate he gives them to, by 
the ancestor who endowed the clan with them,' and by the 
founding hero of the clan to whom the spirits gave them.^*** 
In any case in all these clans they are spiritual in origin and 
nature.^*' Further, they are kept in a large ornate box which 
itself is endowed with a powerful personality, which speaks, is 
in communion with the owner, contains his soul, and so on.^^^ 

Each of these precious objects and tokens of wealth has, as 
amongst the Trobrianders, its name,^®^ quality and power.^*" 


The large abalone shells,^ ^^ the shields covered with them, the 
decorated blankets with faces, eyes, and animal and human 
figures embroidered and woven into them, are all personal- 
ities.^®^ The houses and decorated beams are themselves 
beings.^ ®^ Everything speaks — roof, fire, carvings and paintings; 
for the magical house is built not only by the chief and his 
people and those of the opposing phratry but also by the gods 
and ancestors; spirits and young initiates are welcomed and 
cast out by the house in person.^" 

Each of these precious things has, moreover, a productive 
capacity within it.^'^ Each, as well as being a sign and surety 
of life, is also a sign and surety of wealth, a magico-rehgious 
guarantee of rank and prosperity.^ ^* Ceremonial dishes and 
spoons decorated and carved with the clan totem or sign of 
rank, are animate things.^*' They are replicas of the never- 
ending supply of tools, the creators of food, which the spirits 
gave to the ancestors. They are supposedly miraculous. 
Objects are confounded with the spirits who made them, and 
eating utensils with food. Thus Kwakiutl dishes and Haida 
spoons are essential goods with a strict circulation and are 
carefully shared out between the families and clans of the 

6. 'Money of Renown' (Renommiergeld) ^®* 

Decorated coppers^®* are the most important articles in 
the potlatch, and beliefs and a cult are attached to them. With 
all these tribes copper, a living being, is the obje ct of cult a nd 
myth. 2°° Copper, with i\it riaida ana Kwakmtl at least, is 
identified with salmon,,.itself an object of cult. ^"^ But in addition 
to this mythical element each copper js by itself an object of 
i ndjviHu aJ>-J' i i' 1irf ' s '">2 Each principal copper of the families of 
clan chiefs hasitsname and individuality; *°^ it has also its 
own value, ^°* in the lull magical and economic sense of the 
word, which is regulated by the vicissitudes of the potlatches 
through which it passes and even by its partial or complete 
destruction. 2"^ 


Coppers have also a virtue which at tracts other ^c oppers to 
them, as wealth attracts wealth and as dignity attracts honours, 
spirit-possession and good alliances. 2°® In this way they live 
their own lives and attract other coppers.^"' One of the 
Kwakiutl coppers is called 'Bringer of Coppers' and the formula 
describes how the coppers gather around it, while the name 
of its owner is 'Copper-Flowing-Towards-Me'.^"^ With the 
Haida and Tlingit, coppers are a 'fortress' for the princess who 
owns them; elsewhere a chief who owns them is rendered 
invincible.^"* They are the 'flat divine objects' of the house. 2^° 
Often the myth identifies together the spirits who gave the 
coppers, the owners and the coppers themselves. ^^^ It is im- 
possible to discern what makes the power of the one out of the 
spirit and the wealth of the other; a copper talks and grunts, 
demanding to be given away or destroyed ; ^^^ it is covered with 
blankets to keep it warm just as a chief is smothered in the 
blankets he is to distribute. ^^^ 

From another angle we see the transmission of wealth and 
good fortune. 2^* The spirits and minor spirits of an initiate 
allow him to own coppers arid" talismans which then enable 
him to acquire other coppers, greater wealth, higher rank and 
more spirits (all of these being equivalents). If we consider the 
coppers with other forms of wealth which are the object of 
hoarding and potlatch — masks, talismans and so on — we find 
they are all confounded in their uses and eflTects.^^s Through 
them rank is obtained; because ,^a_xaarL_ahtains wealth he 
obtains a spirit which in turn p ossesses h juL enabling him to 
overcomFobstacles heroically. Then later the hero is paid for 
his shamanistic servicevrituaLdances and~trances. Everything 
is tied together; things have personality, and^ personalities are 
in some manner the, pgijn a nenT possession of the clan. Titles, 
talismans, coppers and spirits of chiefs are homonyms and 
synonyms, having the same nature and function. ^^^ The 
circulation of goods follows that of men, women and children, 
of festival ritual, ceremonies and dances, jokes '^ and injuries. 
Basically they are the same. If things are given and returned it 
is precisely because one gives and returns 'respects' and 


'courtesies'. But in addition, in giving them, a man gives 
himself, and he does so because he owes himself — himself and 
his possessions — to others. 

7. Primary Conclusion 

From our study of four important groups of people we find 
the following: first, in two or three of the groups, we find the 
potlatch, its leading motive and its typical form. In all groups 
we see th e archaic form _of^xch ange — ^t he_gift_and_the return 
gift. Moreover, in these societies we note the circulation of 
objects side by side with the circulation of persons and rights. 
We might stop at this point. The amount, distribution and 
importance of our data authorize us to conceive of a regime 
embracing a large part of humanity over a long transitional 
phase, and persisting to this day among peoples other than 
those described. We may then consider that the spirit of gift- 
exchange is characteristic of societies which have passed the 
phase of 'total prestation' (between clan and clan, family and 
family) but have not yet reached the stage of pure individual 
contract, the money market, sale proper, fixed price, and 
weighed and coined money. 



THE preceding data come from the domain of ethno- 
graphy, and are all drawn from societies bordering the 
Pacific. It is usual for facts of this sort to be treated as 
curiosities, or to be used to show, by comparison, how far our 
own institutions approach them or differ from them. Neverthe- 
less, they have a sociological significance since they lead us 
towards the understanding of a stage in social evolution. They 
also have a bearing on social history, for institutions of this type 
are a step in the development of our own economic forms, and 
serve as a historical explanation of features of our own society. 
We may also find that exchange in the societies which im- 
mediately preceded our own reveals important traces of the 
moral and economic principles we have just analysed for 
primitive societies. We believe we can demonstrate that our 
own economic institutions have arisen from ones of the type 
we have just reviewed.^ 

We live in a society where there is a marked distinction 
(although nowadays the distinction is criticized by lawyers 
themselves) between real and personal law, between things and 
persons. This distinction is fundamental; it is the very condition 
of part of our system of property, alienation and exchange. 
Yet it is foreign to the customs we have been studying. Likewise 
Greek, Roman and Semitic civilizations distinguished clearly 
between obligatory prestations and pure gifts. But are these 
distinctions not of relatively recent appearance in the codes of 
the great civilizations ? Did not those civilizations pass through 
a previous phase in which their thought was less cold and 
calculating ? Did not they themselves at one time practise these 
customs of gift-exchange in which persons and things become 

indistinguishable? Analysis of some aspects of Indo-European 



law shows clearly that usage has in fact changed in this way. 
We find traces of the transformation in Rome. In India and 
Germany we see that institutions of this primitive type were 
functioning at a fairly recent date. 

I. Personal Law and Real Law (Ancient Rome) 

A comparison of archaic custom with Roman custom prior 
to the historic era ^ and Germanic custom of the period when 
it enters history sheds light upon the law of persons and the 
law of things. In particular it allows us to reconsider one of the 
most controversial questions of legal history, the theory of 
the nexum.^ 

Huvelin profitably compares nexum with the Germanic 
wadium and more generally with the other supplementary 
sureties given during the course of a contract; and then com- 
pares the sureties with sympathetic magic and the power which 
a thing, once in contact with a man, gives to his contracting 
partner.* This explains only some of the data. A magical 
sanction remains merely a possibility and depends on the 
nature and character of the object given. The supplementary 
surety and the Germanic wadium are not simply exchanges of 
sureties or warrants endowed with some mystical superiority.' 
The thing pledged is normally of little value — a stick, the 
Roman stips,^ or the Gtnn.a.nic festuca notata; even the arrhes 
(earnest) of Semitic origin is something more than an advance 
payment.' These are live things. Probably they are to be 
considered as survivals of older obligatory gifts or reciprocal 
dues. The contracting parties are bound by them. In this 
respect these supplementary exchanges are fictitious ex- 
pressions of the movement of personalities and the objects 
confounded with them. The nexum, the legal bond, derives from 
things as well as from men.^ 

The formahty with which they were exchanged is proof of 
their importance. In quiritary Roman law, property (essential 
property consisting of slaves and cattle and later of real estate) 
was never handed over in an easy or informal manner. The 


transaction was always a solemn affair, made before five 
witnesses or friends and the 'weigher'.® It was tied up with all 
manner of considerations foreign to our modern conceptions 
with their purely legal and economic elements. The nexum 
established still involved religious representations (which 
Huvelin saw but considered to be exclusively magical). 

Certainly the oldest form of contract in Roman law, the 
nexum is already distinct from the collective contract and the 
old system of binding gifts. The early history of the Roman 
system of obligations may never be written with any certainty. 
Nevertheless it is possible to point out how research on this 
matter might proceed. 

We hold that there is a connecting bond in things other 
than the magical and religious one — a bond created by the 
words and gestures of legal formalism. This bond is strongly 
marked in certain very old terms in Roman and Italic law. 
The etymology of a number of these words is suggestive. What 
follows here is in the nature of a hypothesis. 

Originally, we contend, things had a personality and a 
virtue of their own. Things are not the inert objects which the 
laws of Justinian and ourselves imply. They are a part of the 
family: the Koman familia comprises the/ res as well as the 
rpersonae}^ It is defined in the Digest, and we note that the farther 
Naack we go into Antiquity the more the familia denotes the res 
of which it consists even to the family's food and means of 
livelihood.^^ The best etymology of the word familia is that 
which ahgns it with the Sanskrit dhaman, a house.^^ 

Things were of two kinds. Distinction was made between 
familia and pecunia, between the things of the house (slaves, 
horses, mules, donkeys) and the cattle in the fields far from the 
stables.^^ There was also a distinction between res mancipi and 
res nee mancipi according to the manner in which they were sold.^* 
With the former, which constituted objects of value, including 
children and real estate, ahenation had to follow the form of 
mancipatio, 'taking into the hands'. ^^ There is still discussion 
whether the distinction between familia and pecunia coincided 
with that between res mancipi and res nee mancipi. It seems to us 


that there is not the slightest doubt that at least originally they 
did coincide. The things that escaped the mancipatio were 
precisely the cattle and pecunia, money, the idea, name and 
form of which derived from cattle. One might say that the 
Roman veteres made the same distinction as the Tsimshian and 
Kwakiutl do between the permanent and essential goods of the 
house, and the things that pass on — food, beasts in the distant 
grazing, and metals — in which the unemancipated son might 

Moreover, the res cannot originally have been the brute and 
tangible thing, the simple and passive object of transaction that 
it has become. The best etymology seems to be that which 
compares the word with the Sanskrit rah, ratih, meaning a gift 
or pleasant thing.^® The res rnustoriginally have meant that 
which gives a person pleasure.^' Moreover, the thing was 
always marked with a family seal or property mark. Hence we 
can understand that with things mancipi the solemn act of 
mancipatio created a legal bond. For even in the hands of the 
accipiens it still remained a factor in the family of the original 
owner; it remained bound to that family and likewise bound 
to the latest owner until he was freed by the fulfilment of his 
part of the contract, that is to say by the transmission of the 
compensating article, price or service which in its turn was 
binding on the original owner. 

In respect of two points of Roman law, theft (furtum) and 
contracts re, the idea of the power inherent in a thing was 
always present. As far as theft is concerned, the acts and 
obligations to which it gave rise were clearly due to this 
power.^^ It had aeterna auctoritas which made its presence felt if 
it was stolen.^® In this respect the res of Roman law was no 
different from Hindu or Haida property. ^^ Contracts re con- 
sisted of four of the most important contracts in law: loan, 
deposit, pledge and free loan. A certain number of other 
contracts, in particular gift and exchange, which we consider 
with sale to have been the original kinds of contract, were also 
taken to be contracts re.^^ But in fact, even in our own laws, it 
is not possible to forget the older forms. ^^^ For a gift to be made. 


there must be presupposed an object or service which creates 
an obligation. It is clear, for instance, that the revocability of 
a gift as a result of ingratitude, which came late in Roman law ^' 
but was always present in ours, is a normal, perhaps even 
natural legal institution. 

These facts, though, are not of wide occurrence and we 
want our study to be general. We believe that in ancient Rome 
the act of traditio of a res, and not only the words or writing 
about it, was one of the essential factors. Roman law itself never 
made this clear. For although it proclaimed that the solemnity 
of the occasion was essential — just as is the case in the archaic 
customs we have described — saying nunquam nuda traditio 
transfert dominium,^*' it maintained at the same time, as late as 
Diocletian (298 B.C.) : Traditionibus et usucapionibus dominia, non 
pactis transfer entur.^^ The res, prestation or article is an essential 
element in the contract. We are ill placed to resolve these 
much-debated etymological problems of concepts in view of 
the poverty of the sources. 

Up to this point we feel sure of our facts. If we push 
farther and indicate to lawyers and philologists what might be 
a fruitful Hne of research, it may be possible to discern a legal 
system in force before the time of the Twelve Tables. It is not 
only familia and res which are open to analysis. We put forward 
a number of hypotheses, each of which taken alone carries little 
weight, but which, when considered together, may be found 
to have some significance. 

Most expressions of contract and obligation and some of 
the forms of contract seem to be referable to the system of 
spiritual bonds created by the act of traditio. 

The contracting party is first reus; he is originally the man 
who has received the res from another and who becomes the 
reus — that is, bound to him by virtue of the thing alone, or by 
its spirit.^® Hirn suggested an etymology which has been con- 
sidered meaningless, although its meaning is clear. As he points 
out, reus was originally a genitive ending in -os, and replaces 
rei-jos, the man who is possessed by the thing. 2' It is true that 
Hirn, and Walde who follows him,^^ translate res by 'legal 


action', and rei-jos as 'implicated in a legal action'. ^^ But this 
is arbitrary and presupposes that res means legal action. On 
the contrary, if our derivation is accepted, every res and every 
traditio of res being the object of a legal action in public, it 
becomes clear that 'implicated in a legal action' is merely a 
derived meaning. Thus the meaning of 'guilty' for reus is even 
farther derived. Thus we should prefer to say that the word 
meant first the person possessed by the thing, then the person 
implicated in the legal action arising out of the traditio of the 
thing, and finally the guilty and responsible person. From this 
point of view all the theories of the quasi-delict origin of con- 
tract, nexum and actio are slightly illuminated. The mere fact of 
having the thing puts the accipiens in a condition of quasi- 
culpability {damnatus, nexus, aere obseratus), of spiritual inferiority, 
moral inequality {magister, minister) vis-d-vis the donor, the 

We refer now to a number of very old traits connected with 
mancipatio,^^ the purchase and sale which became the emptio 
venditio of very ancient Roman law.^^ We note first that this 
always implies traditio. ^^ The first holder, tradens, shows his 
property, detaches himself from it, hands it over and thus buys 
the accipiens. True mancipatio corresponds to this operation. The 
person who receives the thing takes it into his hands. He does 
not merely recognize that he has received it, but realizes that 
he himself is 'bought' until it is paid for. Normally only one 
mancipatio is considered, and it is understood to be simply the 
act of taking into possession, but in the one operation many 
others of the same nature are included concerning both things 
and persons. 

There is much discussion also on the emptio venditio.^*' Does 
it correspond to two acts or one? We adduce a reason why 
two acts should be counted although in a direct sale they may 
follow right on top of each other. Just as in primitive custom 
we find the gift followed by the return gift, so in Roman usage 
there is sale and then payment. In this way there is no difficulty 
in understanding the whole process, including the stipulation,^^ 

It is sufficient merely to note the formulae used — that of 


the mancipatio concerning the piece of bronze, and that of the 
acceptance of the money of the slave who redeems himself (this 
money must be '/>wn, probi, profani sui').^^ These two forms are 
identical. Both also are echoes of the formulae for the older 
emptio of cattle and slaves preserved for us in the jus civile.^'' 
The second holder accepts the thing only when it is free of vice; 
and he accepts it only because he is in a position to return 
something, to compensate, to pay the price. Note the expres- 
sions: reddit pretium, reddere, etc., where the root dare still 

Festus has preserved for us the meaning of the term emere 
(to buy), and of the form of civil law it implies. He says: 
'Abemito signijicat demito vel auferto; emere enim antiqui dicebant pro 
accipere ;' 2Lnd also: 'Emere quod nunc est mercari antiqui accipiebant 
pro sumere." This is the meaning of the Indo-European word 
which is connected with the Latin one. Emere is to take or 
accept something from a person.^' 

The term emptio venditio seems to suggest laws other than 
Roman, *° for which, in the absence of money and price, there 
was only barter and gift. Vendere, originally venum dare, is a 
composite word of an archaic or even prehistoric type.*^ There 
is no doubt that it contains the element dare, which implies gift 
and transmission. For the other element we borrow an Indo- 
European word implying not sale but the price of sale, wvi^, 
Sanskrit vasnah, which Him compares with a Bulgarian word 
signifying dowry, the purchase price of a woman. ^^ 

These hypotheses about very ancient Roman law are of 
rather a prehistoric order. The law, morality and economy of 
the Latins must have had these forms, but they were forgotten 
when the institutions approached the historic era. For it was 
precisely these Greeks and Romans who, possibly following the 
Northern and Western Semites, drew the distinction between 
ritual, law and economic interest.*^ By a venerable revolu- 
tion they passed beyond that antiquated and dangerous gift 
economy, encumbered by personal considerations, incom- 
patible with the development of the market, trade and pro- 
ductivity — which was in a word uneconomic. 


Our reconstruction is nothing more than a likely hypothesis, 
but its degree of probability increases with the fact that other 
trustworthy Indo-European written laws were witness in 
historic times to a system of the kind already described among 
Pacific and American societies which, although we call them 
'primitive', are at least 'archaic'. Thus we can generalize with 
some degree of safety. The two Indo-European systems which 
have best conserved these traces are the Germanic and the 
Hindu. They also happen to be those on which we have the 
most complete texts. 

2. Theory of the Gift (Hindu Classical Period) ** 

There is a serious difficulty in the use of Hindu legal 
documents. The codes, and the epics which equal them in 
authority, were written by Brahmins, if notjbr themselves at 
least to their advantage, at tfiF period of their triumph.*^ They 
give us only theoretical law. Thus we can discover data about 
the other castes, Ksatriya and Vaicya, only by making recon- 
structions from the numerous unconnected statements about 
them in the literature. The theory o( danadharma, the 'law of the( y^'Q^^ii 
gift', which we shall discuss, applies only to Brahmins; for 
instance, how they solicit and receive then make return wholly 
by religious services. It shows also the way in which gifts are 
due to them. Naturally this duty of giving to the Brahmins is 
subject to numerous prescriptions. It is probable that entirely 
different relationships obtained among noblemen, princely 
families and the numerous castes and races of the common 
people. It would be a difficult matter to assess them on account 
of the nature of our Hindu data. 

Ancient India immediately after the Aryan invasion was in 
two respects a land of the potlatch."*^ This was still found 
among two large groups which had once been more numerous 
and which now formed the substratum of a great part of the 
population: the Tibeto-Burmans of Assam and the tribes of 
Munda stock, the Austro-Asiatics. We may even suppose that 
the traditions of these tribes have persisted in a Brahminic 


setting.'*' For instance, traces may be seen of an iristitutioil, 
comparable with the Batak indjok and other features of Malayan 
hospitality, in the rules which forbid eating with an uninvited 
guest. Institutions of the same genus if not of the same species 
have left their traces in the oldest Veda, and they are nearly all 
found again in the Indo-European world. *^ Thus there are 
reasons for believing that the Aryans also had them in India.** 
The two currents flowed together at a time which can be fairly 
accurately assessed, contemporary with the later parts of the 
Veda and the colonization of the two great river plains of the 
Indus and Ganges. No doubt the two currents reinforced each 
other. Thus as soon as we leave the Vedic period of the litera- 
ture we find the theory strongly developed. The Mahabharata 
is the story of a tremendous potlatch — there is a game of dice 
between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and a military 
festival, while Draupadi, sister and polyandrous wife of the 
Pandavas, chooses husbands.^" Repetitions of the same cycle 
of legends are met with in the finest parts of the epics; for 
instance, the tale of Nala and Damayanyi, like the Mahab- 
harata, recounts communal house-building, a game of dice and 
so on.^^ But the whole is disfigured by its literary and theological 

For our present demonstration it is not necessary to weigh 
up these multiple origins and make a hypothetical recon- 
struction of the whole system. ^^ Likewise the number of castes 
that were concerned and the exact period at which they 
flourished are irrelevant in a work of comparison. Later, for 
reasons which need not concern us here, this law disappeared 
except among the Brahmins; but we can say for sure that it 
functioned between the eighth century B.C. and the second or 
third century a.d. That is precise enough for our purpose. The 
epics and laws of the Brahmins move in the old atmosphere in 
which gifts are still obligatory and have special virtues and 
form a part of human persons. We limit ourselves here to a 
description of these forms of social life and a study of their 

The thing given brings return in this life and in the other. 


It may automatically bring the donor an equivalent return — it 
is not lost to him, but reproductive; or else the donor finds the 
thing itself again, but with increase. ^^ Food given away means^ 
that food will return to the donor in this world; it also means 
food for him in the other world and in his series of reincarna- 
tions. Water, wells and springs given away are insurance 
against thirst; the clothes, the sunshades, the gold, the sandals 
for protection against the burning earth, return to you in this 
life and in the other.^* The land you give away produces crops' 
for another person and enhances your own interests in both 
worlds and in future incarnations. 'As the crescent moon grows 
from day to day so the gift of land once made increases at every 
harvest.' Land gives crops, rents and taxes, minerals and 
cattle. A gift made of it enriches both donor and recipient with 
the sarne produceT^^ Such economic theology is developed 
at great length in the roUing periods of the innumerable 
cantos, and~heither the codes nor the epics ever tire of the 

Land, food, or whatever one gives away are, moreover, ' 
<;^|^r^pnified beings that talk and take part in the contract. They 
state their desire to be given away. The land once spoke to the 
sun hero Rama, son of Jamadagni, and when he heard its song 
he gave it over to the rsi Kacyapa. The land said to him, in its 
no doubt old-fashioned language: 

'Receive me [to the recipient] 
Give me [to the donor] 
Give me and you shall receive me again' 

and it added, in a rather flat Brahminic tongue: 'In this world 
and in the other what is given is received again.' ^' A very old 
code states that Anna, food deified, proclaimed the following 
verse : 

'Him who, without giving me to the gods or the 

spirits, or to his servants or guests, 

prepares and eats [me], and in 

his folly thus eats poison, I eat him, 

I am his death. 


'But for him who offers the angihotra, and then 
eats — in happiness, purity and faith — 
whatever remains after he has fed those 
whom it is his pleasure and duty to feed, 
for him I become ambrosia and he takes pleasure in 
me.' ^* 

It is in the nature of food to be shared; to fail to give others a 
part is to 'kill its essence', to destroy it for oneself and for others. 
Such is the interpretation at once materialistic and idealistic, 
that Brahminism gav£LtQ chadtx_^d hospitality.^^ Wealth is 
made tobe_^ven away. Were there no Brahmins to receive it, 
'vain wouldbe~tKe wealth of the rich'. 'He who eats without 
knowledge kills his food, and his food kills him.' ^" Avarice 
interrupts the action of food which, when properly treated, is 
always productive of more. 

In this game of exchanges, as well as with reference to theft, 
Brahminism makes a clear recognition of personal property. 
The property of the Braiimin is the Brahmin himself 'The 
Brahmin's cow is poison, a venomous snake', says the Veda of 
the magicians.®^ The old code of Baudhayana proclaims: 'The 
property of the Brahmin slays [the guilty] through the son and 
the grandson; the poison is not [poison]; property of the 
Brahmin is called [real] poison.' ^^ It contains its sanction 
within itself, since it is in fact that which is terrible about the 
Brahmin. It is not necessary even that the theft of a Brahmin's 
property should be conscious and intentional. A section of the 
Parvan,^^ the part of the Mahabharata which is most relevant, 
tells how Nrga, king of the Yadus, was transformed into a 
lizard for having given, through the fault of his people, a cow 
,to a Brahmin which was another Brahmin's property. The man 
who received it would not part with it, even for a hundred 
thousand others; it was a part of his house and belonged to 
himself: 'She is used to my ways, she is a good milker, placid 
and attached to me. Her milk is sweet, and I always keep some 
in my house. She feeds a little child of mine who is weak and 
already weaned. I cannot give her away.' Nor did the Brahmin 


from whom she was taken accept another. She was the property 
of both the Brahmins irrevocably. Caught between the two 
refusals tHellnKappy king had remained under a spell these 
thousands of years through the curse which the refusals 
entailed . ®*~ ~ 

Nowhere is the connection between the thing given and the 
donor, or between property and its owner, more clearly 
apparent than in the rules relating to gifts of cattle.*^ They are Dharma (taw), Yudhisthira himself, the 
principal hero of the epic, lived among cattle, ate barley and 
cowdung and slept on the ground and thus became 'bull' 
among kings.®^ For three days and nights the owner of cattle 
to be given away would imitate him and observe the 'cattle 
oath'. He lived exclusively on 'cattle juices' — water, dung and 
urine — for one night out of the three. (Urine is the residence of 
Cri, Fortune.) For one night out of the three he slept with the 
cattle on the ground and, adds the commentator, 'without 
scratching himself or removing his vermin', identified himself 
with them in spirit.^' "When he went to the stall and called 
them by their sacred names, ^^ he added : 'The cow is my mother, 
the bull is my father' and so on. He repeated the first formula 
during the act of transfer. After praising the cattle the donor 
said: 'What you are, I am; today I become of your essence, 
and giving you I give myself ®* And the recipient when he 
got them (making the pratighrana '") said: 'Transmitted in 
spirit, received in spirit, glorify us both, you who have the 
forms of the sun and moon [Soma and Ugra].' '^ 

Other principles of Brahminic law awaken reminiscences of 
certain Polynesian, Melanesian and American customs we have 
described. The manner of receiving the gift is curiously 
similar. The Brahmin has invincible pride. He refuses to have 
anything to do with markets. '^ In a national economy with 
to);vns, markets and money, the Brahmin remains faithful to the 
economy and morality of the old Indo-Iranian shepherds and 
other aboriginal peasants of the great plains. He maintains the 
dignity of a nobleman in taking offence at favours towards 
him. '^ Two sections of the Mahabharata tell how the seven rsi^ 


the great prophets and their disciples, as they went in time of 
famine to eat the body of the son of the king Cibi, refused great 
gifts and golden figs offered them by the king Caivya Vrsadar- 
bha, and answered him: 'O King, to receive from kings is 
honey at first but ends as poison.' 

This is a quaint theory. A whole caste which liv es by gif ts 
pretends to refuse them,'* then'^compiromises ariH'^cepts only 
thosd'ivhTch are offered spontaneously.'^ Then it draws up long 
lists of persons from whom,'^ and circumstances in which, one 
may accept gifts, and of the things " which one may accept; 
and finally admits everything in the case of a famine '^ — on 
condition, to be sure, of some slight purification.'^ 

The bond that the gift jjeates between the donor and the 
recipient is t oo strong fo r them. As in all systems we have 
studied so far, as well as in others, the one is bound too closely 
to the other. The recipient is in a state of dependence upon the 
donor. ^^ It is for this reason that the Brahmin may not accept 
and still less solicit from the king. Divinity among divinities, 
he is superior to the king and would lose his superiority if 
he did other than simply take from him. On the side of the 
king his manner of giving is as important as the fact that he 
gives. ^^ 

The gift is thus soijiething that jnust be given, that must be 
received. and that is, at the same time, dangerous to accept. 
The gift itself constitutes an irrevocable link especially when 
it is a gift of food. The recipient depends upon the temper of 
the donor, ^2 in fact each depends upon the other. Thus a man 
does not eat with his enemy. ^^ 

All kinds of precautions are taken. The authors of the Codes 
and Epics spread themselves as only Hindu authors can on the 
theme that gifts, donors and things given are to be considered 
in their context, precisely and scrupulously, so that there may 
be no mistake about the manner of giving and receiving to fit 
each particular occasion.^* There is etiquette at every step. It is 
not the same as a market where a man takes a thing objectively 
for a price. Nothing is casual here.^^ Contracts, alliances, 
transmission of goods, bonds created by these transfers — each 


Stage in the process is regulated morally and economically. 
The nature and intention of the contracting parties and the 
nature of the thing given are indivisible. The lawyer poet 
expresses perfectly what we want to describe: 'Here is but one 
wheel turning in one direction.' ^^ 

3. Pledge and Gift (Germanic Societies) 

If Germanic societies have not preserved for us such old 
and meaningful traces of their theory of the gift as the Indian, 
they had none the less a clearly developed system of exchange 
with gifts voluntarily and obligatorily given, received and 
repaid. Few systems are so typical.^' 

Germanic civilization, too, was a long time without 
markets.®^ It remained essentially feudal and peasant; the 
notion and even thejterms of price, purchase and sale seem to 
be of recent origin.^" In earlier times it had developed the 
potlatch and more particularly the system of gift exchange to 
an extreme degree. Clans within tribes, great extended families 
within the clans, tribes between themselves, chiefs and even 
kings, were not confined morally and economically to the 
closed circles^f their^ own groups ; and links, alliances and 
mutual assistance came into being by means of the pledge, th e 
hostage and the feast or other acts of generosity.'" We have 
already seen thenrfairyrmr^giife^taken-imindie Havamal. There 
are three other facts to note. _,— - — - 

An intensive study of the rich Germai^ vocabulary derived 
from the words geben and Gaben has never been undertaken.'^ 
They are extraordinarily numerous: Ausgabe, Abgabe, Hingabe, 
Liebesgabe, Morgengabe, the curious Trostgabe, vergeben, widergeben 
and wiedergeben, Gift and Mitgift, etc. The study, too, of the 
institutions designated by these words has still to be made.'^ 
On the other hand, the system of gifts, including the obligation 
to repay, and its importance in tradition and folklore are 
admirably described by Richard Meyer in one of the best 
existing works on folklore.'^ We simply mention it and retain 
for the moment some remarks on the obligatory force of the 


bond, the Angebinde, constituted by exchange, the offer, the 
acceptance of the offer and the obhgation to repay. 

There is another institution of great economic significance 
which persisted until quite recently and which no doubt is still 
to be found in some German villages. This is the Gaben, the 
exact equivalent of the Hindu adanam.^* On days of baptism, 
first communion, betrothal and marriage the guests, comprising 
often the whole village, giv_e presents w hose to tal value exceeds 
th e cost of t he ce reinony. In some districts of Germany this 
Gaben constitutes the bride's dowry, given on the wedding 
morning, and is known as the Morgengabe. In places the abund- 
ance of these gifts is said to be a measure of the fertility of the 
young couple. ^^ The entry into marital relations and the 
different gifts which the god-parents hand over at various 
stages of their career to qualify and help their charges are 
equally important. This theme is still recognized in French 
customs, tales and forms of invitation, in the curses of people 
not invited and the blessings and generosity of those who are. 

Another institution has the same origin — the_ pledge in all 
Jdnds—of—GeFHiaHie— contracts. *^ The French word gage is 
connected with wadium (cf wage). Huvelin shows that the 
Germanic wadium provides a means of understanding the con- 
tractual bond and compares it with the Roman nexum.^'^ In 
fact, in the manner in which Huvelin interprets it, the pledge 
accepted allows the contracting parties in Germanic law to 
react on each other, because one possesses something of the 
other who, having once owned it, might well have put a spell 
on it; or else because the pledge is split in two, a half being kept 
by each partner. But we can suggest a more direct interpreta- 
tion. The magical sanction may intervene but it is not the sole 
bond. The thing given as a pledge must be given._In Germanic 
law each contract, sale or purchase, loan or deposit, entaiTs a 
pledge: one partner is given an object, generally something of 
little value like a glove or a piece of money {Treugeld), a knife, 

Or perhaps — as with the French — a pin or two, and this^; - 

returne^^jwhen the thing handed over is paid for. Huvelin has 
already noted that the thing is something ordinary, personal 


or of little value; and he rightly compares this with the theme 
of the 'life-token'. The pledge thus given is in fact imbued with 
the personality of the partner who gave it. The fact that it is in 
the hands of the recipient moves its donor to fulfil his part of 
the contract and buy himself back by buying the thing. Thus 
the nexum is in the thi ng us ed as_ajpledge and not only in the 
magical acts or tlig^jQlenHr-fbrms of the contract, the words, 
oaths, ritual and handshakes^.£xchanged ; it is present not only 
in the acts of magical significance, the tallies of which each 
partner keeps a share, or the joint meals where each partakes of 
the other's substance; it is present in the thing as well. 

Two characteristics of ihewadiatio prove the pxesence of 
this power ifl—tKFThing. First the pledge not only creates 
obligations and acts as a binding force but it also engages the 
honour, authority and mana of the man who hands it over.*^ 
He remains in an inferior position so long as he is not freed from 
his 'engagement-wager'. For the words Wette and wetten,^^ 
translations of wadium, imply wager as much as pledge. It is 
the price of an agreement and the recognition of a challenge, 
even more than a means of constraining the debtor. As long as 
the contract is not terminated it is a wager lost, and thus the 
contractor loses more than he bargained for — not counting the 
fact that he is liable to lose the thing received which its owner 
is at liberty to reclaim so long as the pledge is not honoured. 
The other characteristic shows the danger of receiving the 
pfedgerF'of it Is noTolrly^liFpTersoiLwha gives itTtratIs bound, 
but also the one who receives it. As with the recipient in the 
Trobriands he distrusts the thing given. Thus it is thrown at 
his feet; if it is afestuca notata with runic characters, or a tally 
of which he is to keep a part, he receives it on the ground or 
in his breast but never in his hands.^°° The whole ritual takes 
the form of challenge and distrust, and is an expression of them. 
In English, 'to throw down the gage' is the equivalent of 'to 
throw down the gauntlet'. The fact is that the pledge as a thing 
given spells danger for the two parties concerned. 

Here^j,s_aJjiird'p6int. The danger represented by the thing 
given or transmitted is possibly nowhere better expressed than 


in very ancient Germanic languages. This explains the double 
meaning of the word Gift as gift and poison. Elsewhere we have 
given a semantic history of this word.^"^ The theme of the 
fateful gift, the present or possession that turns into poison, is ^ 
fundamental in Germanic folklore. The Rhine Gold is fatal to 
the man who wins it, the Cup of Hagen is disastrous to the hero 
who drinks of it; numerous tales and legends of this kind, 
Germanic and Celtic, still haunt our imaginations. We may 
quote the stanza in which the hero of the Edda, Hreidmar, 
replies to the curses of Loki : 

'Thou hast given presents 

But thou hast not given presents of love. 

Thou hast not given of a benevolent heart; 

Thou hadst already been deprived of thy life, 

Had I but known the danger sooner.' ^^^ 

Chinese Law 

Finally a great civilization, the Chinese, has preserved from 
archaic times the very legal principle that interests us: it 
recognize^jiie jndissolubieHscnd-TjfXnthing with its original 
owner. Even today the man who sells property, even personal 
property, retains the right during the rest of his life to 'weep 
over it'.^°^ Father Hoang brought to notice copies of these 
'mourning Ucences' as given by the buyer to the vendor.^"* A 
kind of 'right of pursuit' is established over the thing combined 
with a right of pursuit over its owner, and the vendor retains 
this right long after the thing has fallen into other hands and 
all the terms of the 'irrevocable' contract have been fulfilled. 
Because of the thing transmitted (and whether it depreciates 
or not) the alhance contracted is not temporary, and the 
contracting parties are bound in perpetual interdependence. 

As for Annamitc custom Westermarck ^°^ noted that it was 
dangerous to receive a gift, and perceived some of the signi- 
ficance of this fact. 

Chapter iV 


I. Moral Conclusions 

LET us extend our observations to the present day. Much 
of our everyday moraUty is concerned with the question 
of obUgation and spontaneity in the gift. It is our good 
fortune that all is not yet couched in terms of purchase and salc^ 
Things have values which are emotional as well as material; 
indeed in some cases the values are entirely emotional. Ou^ 
mor ^ity is not solely comm ercial. We still have people ana 
classes who uphold past customs and we bow to them on special 
occasions and at certain periods of the year. 

The gift not yet repaid debases the man who accepted it, 
particularly if he did so without thought of return. In recalling 
Emerson's curious essay On Gifts and Presents wc are not leaving -^ 
tHeXrermanic field : charity wounds him who receives, and our 
whole moral effort is directed towards suppressing the un- 
conscious harmful patronage of the rich almoner.^ 

Just as a courtesy has to be returned, so must an invitation. 
Here we find traces of the traditional basis, the aristocratic 
potlatch; and we see at work also some of the fundamental 
motives of human activity : emulation between individuak of 
the same sex, the basic 'imperialism' of men — of origin part 
social, part animal or psychological no doubt.^ In the dis- 
tinctive sphere of our social life we can never remain at rest. 
Wc must always return more than we receive; the return is \ .y 
always bigger and more costly. A family of my childhood in ' 
Lorraine, which was forced to a most frugal existence, would 
face ruin for the sake of its guests on Saints' Days, weddings, 
first communions and funerals. You had to be a grand seigneur 
on these occasions. Some of our people behave like this all the 



time and spend money recklessly on their guests, parties and 
New Year gifts. 

Invitations have to be offered and have to be accepted. 
This usage still exists in our present-day liberal societies. 
Scarcely fifty years ago, and perhaps more recently in some 
parts of France and Germany, the whole village would take 
part in a wedding feast; if anyone held away it was an indica- 
tion of jealousy and at the same time a fateful omen. In many 
districts of France everyone still has a part in the proceedings. 
In Provence on the birth of a child folk still bring along their 
egg or some other symbolic present. 

Things sold have thejr personality even nowadays. At 
Cornimont, m a valley in the Vosges, the following custom 
prevailed a short time ago and may perhaps still be found in 
some famihes : in order that animals should forget their former 
masters and not be tempted to go back to them, a cross was 
made on the lintel of the stable door, the vendor's halter was 
retained and the animals were hand-fed with salt. At Raon- 
aux-Bois a small butter-tart was carried thrice round the dairy 
and offered to the animals with the right hand. Numerous 
other French customs show how it is necessary to detach the 
thing sold from the man who sells it: a thing may be slapped, 
ja sheep may be whipped when sold, and so on.^ 

It appears that the whole field of industrial and commercial 
law is in conflict with morality. The economic prejudices of the 
Deople and producers derive from their strong desire to pursue^^ 
the thing they have produced once they realize that they|h^V« 
I given their labour without sharing in the profits, i ^ 

\ Today the ancient principles are making their influence 
felt upon the rigours, abstractions and inhumanities of our 
codes. From this point of view much of our law is in process of 
reformulation and some of our innovations consist in putting 
back the clock. This reaction against Roman and Saxon 
insensibihty in our regime is a good thing. We can interpret in 
this way some of the more recent developments in our laws and 
customs. -^ ^ ^ ^^' 

It took a long time for artistic, literary or scientific owner- 



ship to be recognized beyond the right to sell the manuscript, 
invention, or work of art. Societies have little interest in 
admitting that the heirs of an author or inventor — who are, 
after all, their benefactors — have more than a few paltry rights 
in the things created. These are readily acclaimed as products 
of the colle ctive as well as the individual j iiind^jand hence to be 
public property. However, the scandal of the increment value 
drpainHngsTscuIptures and objets d'art inspired the French law 
of September 1923 which gives the artist and his heirs and 
claimants a 'right_o£^lirsuit^ trver the successive increments of 
his works. , x 

French legislation on ^ocial ins urance^ and accomplished 
state socialism, are inspired by the principle that the worker 
gives his life and labour partly to the community and partly to 
his bosses. If the worker has to collaborate in the business of 
insurance then those who benefit from his services are not 
square with him simply by paying him a wage. The State, 
representing the community, owes him and his management 
and fellow-workers a certain security in his life against unem- 
ployment, sickness, old age and death. 

In the same way some ingenious innovations like the family 
funds freely and enthusiastically provided by industrialists for 
workers with families, are an answer to the need for employers 
to get men attached to them and to realize their responsibilities 
and the degree of material and moral interest that these 
responsibilities entail. In Great Britain the long period of 
unemployment affecting millions of workers gave rise to a 
movement for compulsory unemployment insurance organized 
by unions. The cities and the State were slow to support the 
high cost of paying the workless, whose condition arose from 
that of industry and the market; but some distinguished 
economists and captains of industry saw that industries them- 
selves should organize unemployment savings and make the 
necessary sacrifices. They wanted the cost of the workers' 
security against unemployment to form a part of the expenses 
of the industry concerned. 

We believe that such ideas and legislation correspond not 


to an upheaval, but to a return to law.* We are seeing the dawn 
and realization of professional morality and corporate law. 
The compensation funds and mutual societies which industrial 
groups are forming in favour of labour have, in the eyes of pure 
morality, only one flaw : their administration is in the hands of 
the bosses. But there is also group activity; the State, munici- 
palities, public assistance establishments, works managements 
and wage-earners are all associated, for instance, in the social 
legislation of Germany and Alsace-Lorraine, and will shortly 
be in France. Thus we are returning to a i group morahty. 

On the other hand, it is the individual that the State and 
the groups within the State want to look after. Society wants 
to discover the social 'cell'. It seeks the individual in a curious 
frame of mind in which the sentiments of its own laws are 
mingled with other, purer sentiments: charity, social service 
/and solidarity. The theme of the gift, of freedom and obligation 
m the gift, of generosity and self-interest in giving, reappear in 
our own society like the resurrection of a dominant motif long 

But a mere statement of what is taking place is not enough. 
We should deduce from it some course of action or moral 
precept. It is not sufficient to say that law is in the process of 
shedding an abstraction — the distinction between real and 
personal law — or that it is adding some fresh rules to the ill- 
made legislation on sale and payment for services. We want 
to show also that the transformation is a good one. 

We are returning, as indeed we must do, to the old theme 
of 'noble expenditure'. It is essential that, as in Anglo-Saxon 
couritries and so many contemporary societies, savage and 
civihzed, the rich should come once more, freely or by obliga- 
tion, to consider themselves as the treasurers, as it were, of 
their fellow-citizens. Of the ancient civilizations from which 
ours has arisen some had the jubilee, others the Hturgy, the 
choragus, the trierarchy, the syssita or the obligatory expenses 
of the aedile or consular official. We should return to customs 
of this sort. Then we need better care of the individual's life, 
health and education, his family and its future. We need more 


good faith, sympathy and generosity in the contracts of hire 
and service, rents and sale of the necessities of Hfe. And we have 
to find the means of hmiting the fruits of speculation and usury. 
Meanwhile the individual must work and be made to rely more 
upon himself than upon others. From another angle he must 
defend his group's interest as well as his own. Communism and 
too much generosity is as harmful to him and society as the 
selfishness of our contemporaries or the individualism of our 
laws. In the Mahabharata a malignant wood spirit explains to 
a Brahmin who has given too much away to the wrong people : 
'That is why you are thin and pale.' The life of the monk and 
the life of Shylock are both to be avoided. This new morality 
will consist of a happy medium between the ideal and the real. 

Hence we should return to the old and elemental. Once 
again we shall discover those motives of action still remembered 
by many societies and classes: the joy of giving in public, the 
delight in generous artistic expenditure, the pleasure of 
hospitality in the public or private feast. Social insurance, 
solicitude in mutuality or co-operation, in the professional 
group and all those moral persons called Friendly Societies, are 
better than the mere personal security guaranteed by the 
nobleman to his tenant, better than the mean life afforded by' 
the daily wage handed out by managements, and better even 
than the uncertainty of capitalist savings. 

We can visualize a society in which these principles obtain. 
In the liberal professions of our great nations such a moral and 
economic system is to some degree in evidence. For honour, 
disinterestedness and corporate solidarity are not vain words, 
nor do they deny the necessity for work. We should humanize 
the other liberal professions and make all of them more perfect. 
That would be a great deed, and one which Durkheim already 
had in view. 

In doing this we should, we believe, return to the ever- 
present bases of law, to its real fundamentals and to the very 
heart of normal social life. There is no need to wish that the 
citizen should be too subjective, too insensitive or too realistic. 
He should be vividly aware of himself, of others and of the 



social reality (and what other reality is there in these moral 
matters?). He must act with full Realization of himself, of 
society and its sub-groups. The basis of moral action is general; 
it is common to societies of the highest degree of evolution, to 
those of the future and to societies of the least advancement. 
Here we touch bedrock. We are talking no longer in terms of 
law. We are talking of men and groups since it is they, society, 
and their sentiments that are in action all the time. 

Let us demonstrate this point. What we call total prestation 
— prestation between clan and clan in which individuals and 
/''T\ groups exchange everything between them — constitutes the 
V^j^oldest economic system we know. It is the base from which 
gift-exchange arose. Now it is precisely this same type towards 
which we are striving to have our own society — on its own scale 
— directed. The better to visualize these distant epochs 
we give two examples from widely differing societies. 

In a corroboree of Pine Mountain (East Central Queens- 
land) each person enters the sacred place in turn, his spear- 
thrower in one hand and the other hand behind his back; he 
lobs his weapon to the far end of the dancing ground, shouting 
at the same time the name of the place he comes from, like: 
'Kunyan is my home'. He stands still for a moment while his 
friends put gifts, a spear, a boomerang or other weapon, into 
his other hand. 'Thus a good warrior may get more than his 
hand can hold, particularly if he has marriageable daughters.' ^ 
In the Winnebago tribe clan chiefs make speeches to chiefs 
of other clans; these are characteristic examples of a ceremonial 
which is widespread among North American Indian civiliza- 
tions.* At the clan feast each clan cooks food and prepares 
tobacco for the representatives of other clans. Here by way of 
illustration are extracts from the speeches given by the Snake 
Clan chief: T salute you; it is well; how could I say otherwise? 
I am a poor man of no worth and you have remembered me. 
You have thought of the spirits and you have come to sit with 
me. And so your dishes will soon be filled, and I salute you 
again, you men who take the place of the spirits. . . .' When one 
of the chiefs has eaten, an offering of tobacco is put in the fire 


and the final sentences express the moral significance of the 
feast and the prestations: 'I thank you for coming to fill my 
places and I am grateful to you. You have encouraged me. 
The blessings of your grandfathers [who had revelations and 
whom you incarnate] are equal to those of the spirits. It is good 
that you have partaken of my feast. It must be that our grand- 
fathers have said: "Your life is weak and can be strengthened 
only by the advice of the warriors." You have helped me and 
that means life to me.' ' 

A wise precept has run right through human evolution, and 
we would be as well to adopt it as a principle of action. We 
should come out of ourselves and regard the duty of giving as 
a liberty, for in it there lies no risk. A fine Maori proverb runs: 

^Ko maru kai atu 

Ko maru kai mai, 

Ka ngohe ngohe.^ 
'Give as much as you receive and all is for the best.' ^ 

2. Political and Economic Conclusions 

Our facts do more than illumine our morality and point 
out our ideal; for they help us to analyse economic facts of a 
more general nature, and our analysis might suggest the way 
to better administrative procedures for our societies. 

We have repeatedly pointed out how this economy of gift- 
exchange fails to conform to the principles of so-called natural 
economy or utilitarianism. The phenomena in the economic 
life of the people we have studied (and they are good repre- 
sentatives of the great neolithic stage of civilization) and the 
survivals of these traditions in societies closer to ours and even 
in our own custom, are disregarded in the schemes adopted by 
the few economists who have tried to compare the various 
forms of economic life.*. We add our own observations to those 
of Malinowski who devoted a whole work to ousting the 
prevalent doctrines on primitive economics.^" 

Here is a chain of jmdoubted fact. The notionof,j^ahiC" 
exists in these societies. IVery great surpluses, even by European 


Standards, are amassed; they are expended often at pure loss 
with tremendous extravagance and without a trace of mer- 
cenariness; ^^ among things exchanged are tokens of wealth, a 
kind of money. All this very rich economy is nevertheless 

1 imbued with^religious^elernents ; mojiey^'Still has its magical 
power and is linked to clan and individual. Diverse_economic 

..a£livities= — for example, the market — are impregnated with 
ritual and myth; they retain a ceremonial character, obligatory 

J and efficacious-;^'^ they have their own ritual and etiquettje.J 
Here is the answer to the question already posed by Durkheim 
about the. religious ori^iji of the notion of economic value.^^ 

iThe facts also supply answers to a string of problems about the 
forms and origins of what is so badly termed exchange — the 
barter or permutatio of useful articles.^* In the view of cautious 
Latin authors in the Aristotelian tradition and their a priori 
economic history, this is the origin of the division of labour .^^J 

'^'On the contrary, it is something other than utility which makes 
goods circulate in these multifarious and fairly enhghtened 
societies. Clans, age groups and sexes, in view of the many 
relationships ensuing from contacts between them, are in a 
state of perpetual ec^onomic effervescence which has little about 
it that is materialistic; it is much less prosaic than our sale and 
purchaseT^hire of services and speculations. 

We may go farther than this and brealc down, reconsider 
and redefine the principal notions of which we have already 
made use. Our terms 'present' and 'gift' do not have precise 
meanings, but we could find no others. Concepts which we like 
to put in opposition — freedom and obligation; generosity, 
hberality, luxury on the one hand and saving, interest, austerity 
on the other — are not exact and it would be well to put them 
to the test. We cannot deal very fully with this; but let us take 
an example from the Trobriands. It is a complex notion that 
inspires the economic actions we have described, a notion 
neither of purely free and gratuitous prestations, nor of purely 
interested and utilitarian production and exchange; it is a 

-Jiind of hybrid. 

Malinowski made a serious effort to classify all the trans- 


actions he witnessed in the Trobriands according to the interest 
or disinterestedness present in them. He ranges them from pure 
gift to barter jwith J)argaining, but this classification is unten- 
aoTe." Thus according to Mahnowski the typical 'pure gift' is 
that between spouses. Now in our view one of the most im- 
portant acts noted by the author, and one which throws a 
strong light on sexual relationships, is the mapula, the sequence 
of payments by a husband to his wife as a kind of salary for 
5£XiiaLservices.^' Likewise the payments to chiefs are tribute; 
the distributions of food {sagali) are payments for labour or 
ritual accomplished, such as work done on the eve of a funeral. ^^ 
Thus basically as these gi fts ar e not^s]X)nt5.neous-SQ_also they 
are not really disinferestedj They are for the most part counter- 
prestations made not solely in order to pay for goods or services, 
b ut also to maintain a profitable alliance which it would be 
unwise to reject, as for instance partnership between fishing 
tribes and tribes of hunters and potters.^^' Now this fact is 
widespread — we have met it with the Maori, Tsimshian and 
others.^" Thus it is clear wherein this mystical and practical 
force resides, which at once binds clans together and keeps them 
separate, which divides their labour and constrains them to 
exchange. Even in these societies the individuals and the 
groups, or rather the sub-groups, have always felt the sovereign 
right to refuse a contract, and it is this which lends an appear- 
ance of generosity to the circulation of goods. On the other 
hand, normally they had neither the right of, nor interest in, 
such a refusal; and it is that which makes these distant societies 
seem akin to ours. 

The use of /money suggests other considerations. The Tro- 
briand i'a>'^«'a,' armshells and necklaces, like the North- West 
American coppers and Iroquois wampum, are at once wealth, 
tokens of wealth,^! means of exchange and payment, and things 
to be given away or destroyed. In addition they are pledges, 
linked to the persons who use them and who in turn are bound 
by them. Since, however, at other times they serve as tokens of 
money, there is interest in giving them away, for if they are 
transformed into services or merchandise that yield money then 


one is better off in the end. We may truly say that the Tro- 
briand or Tsimshian chief behaves somewhat Hke the capitaHst 
who knovvs_hoi\L-to-speRd-his money at the^Tght time only to 
build his capital up again. Interest and disinterestedness taken 
together explain this form of the circulation of wealth and of 
the circulation of tokens of wealth that follows upon it. 

pEven the destruction of wealth does not correspond to the 
complete disinterestedness which one might expect. These 
great acts of .^enerogity -arc^no^ free fronr-^^ifjnterest. The 
extravagant consumption of wealth, particularly in the pot- 
latch, always exaggerated and often purely destructive, in 
which goods long stored are all at once given away or destroyed, 
lends to these institutions the appearance of wasteful expendi- 
ture and child-like prodigality.^^ Not only are valuable goods 
thrown away and foodstuffs consumed to excess but there is 
destruction for its own sake — coppers are thrown into the sea 
or broken. But the motives of such excessive gifts and reckless 
consumption, such mad losses and destruction of wealth, 
especially in these potlatch societies, are in no way disinterested. 
Between vassals and chiefs, between vassals and their henchmen, 
the hierarchy is established by means of these gifts. To give is 
to show one's superiority, to show that one is something more 
and higher, that one is magister. To accept without returning or 
repaying more is to face subordination, to become a client and 
subservient, to become minister.. 

The magic ritual in the kula known as mwasila contains 
spells and symbols which show that the man who wants to enter 
into a contract seeks above all profit in the form of social — 
one might almost say animal — superiority. Thus he charms the 
betel-nut to be used with his partners, casts a spell over the 
chief and his fellows, then over his own pigs, his necklaces, his 
head and mouth, the opening gifts and whatever else he carries; 
then he chants, not without exaggeration: T shall kick the 
mountain, the mountain moves . . . the mountain falls down. 
. . . My spell shall go to the top of Dobu Mountain. . . . My 
canoe will sink. . . . My fame is like thunder, my treading is 
like the roar of flying witches, . . . Tudududu.' ^^ The aim is to 


be the first, the finest, luckiest, strongest and richest, and that 
is how to set about it. (Later the chief confirms his mana when 
he redistributes to his vassals and relatives what he has just 
received; he maintains his rank among the chiefs by exchanging 
armshells for necklaces, hospitality for visits, and so on. In this 
case wealth is, in every aspect, as much a thing of prestige as a 
thing of utility. 'But are we certain that our own position is 
different and that wealth with us is not first and foremost a 
means of controlling others ? 

Let us test now the notion to which we have opposed the 
ideas of the gift and disinterestedness: t hat of inter est^^nd the 
indi vidual pursuit o f utility. This agrees no better with previous 
theories. If similar motives animate Trobriand and American 
chiefs and Andaman clans and once animated generous Hindu 
or Germanic noblemen in their giving and spending, they are 
not to be found in the cold reasoning of the business man, 
banker or capitalist. iTrLthose earlier civiUzatiQiis one had! 
interests but they differed from those of our time. jThere, if one! 
hoards, itTs^ only to spend later on, to put people under obliga- 
tions and to win followers. Exchanges are made as well, but 
only of luxury objects like clothing and ornaments, or feasts 
and other things that are consumed at once. Return is made 
with interest , but that is done in order to humiHate the original 
donor or exchange partner and not merely to recompense him 
fortheiossThar the lapse of time causes him. He has an interest 
but It Is "only analogous to the one which we say is our guiding 

Ranged between the relatively amorphous and disinterested 
economy within the sub-groups of Austrahan and North 
American (Eastern and Prairie) clans, and the individualistic 
economy of pure interest which our societies have had to some 
extent ever since their discovery by Greeks and Semites, there 
is a great series of institutions and economic events nojL_ 
^govern ed by the rationalism w hich past theory so readily took 

for granted. ^ — - 

The word 'interest' is recent in origin and can be traced 
back to the Latin interest written on account books opposite 


rents to be recovered. In the most epicurean of these philoso- 
phies pleasure and the good were pursued and not material 
utility. The victory of rationalism and mercantilism was 
required before the notions of profit and the individual were 
given currency and raised to the level of principles. One can 
date roughly^ — after Mandeville and his Fable des Abeilles — the 
triumph of the notion of individual interest. It is only by 
awkward paraphrasing that one can render the phrase 'indi- 
vidual interest' in Latin, Greek or Arabic. Even the men who 
wrote in classical Sanskrit and used the word artha, which is 
fairly close to our idea of interest, turned it, as they did with 
other categories of action, into an idea different from ours. The 
sacred books of ancient India divide human actions into the 
categories of law (dharma), interest (artha) and desire (kama). 
But artha refers particularly to the political interest of king, 
Brahmins and ministers, or royalty and the various castes. 
The considerable literature of the Niticastra is not economic 
in tone. 

. It is only our Western societies that quite recently turned 
nianjntp an economic animal. But we are not yet all animals 
of the same species. In ,_both lower and u pper pure ^ 
irrational expenditure is in current practice: it is still charac- 
teristic of some French noble houses. Homo oeconomicus is not 
behind us, but before, like the moral man, the man of duty, the 
scientific man and the reasonable man. For a long time man 
was something quite different; and it is not so long now since 
he became a machine — a calculating_ machine. 

In other respects we are stilLJar from frigid utilitarian 
calculation. Make a thorough statistical analysis, as Halb- 
wachs did for the working classes, of the consumption and 
expenditure of our middle classes and how many needs are 
found satisfied? How many desires are fulfilled that have 
utility as their end? Does not the rich man's expenditure on 
luxury, art, servants and extravagances recall the expenditure 
of the nobleman of former times or the savage chiefs whose 
customs we have been describing? 

It is another question to ask if it is good that this should be 


so. It is a good thing possibly that there exist means of expendi- 
ture and exchange other than economic ones. However, wc 
contend that the best economic procedure is not to be found in 
the calculation of individual needs. I believe that we must 
become, in proportion as we would develop our wealth, 
so mething more than better financierSj__accoimtants and 
administrato rs. The jnere pursuit of individual ends Ts HarfnTul ^ 
to the ends and peace of the whole, to the rhythm of its work 
and pleasures, and hence in the end to the individual. 

We have just seen how important sections and groups of 
our capital industries are seeking to attach groups of their 
employees to them. Again all the syndicalist groups, employers' 
as much as wage-earners', claim that they are defending and 
representing the general interest with a fervour equal to that 
of the particular interests of their members, or of the interests 
of the groups themselves. Their speeches are burnished with 
many fine metaphors. Nevertheless, one has to admit that 
not only ethics and philosophy, but also economic opinion and 
practice, are starting to rise to this 'social' level. The feeling is 
that there is no better way of making men work than by 
reassuring them of being paid loyally all their lives for labour 
which they give loyally not only for their own sakes but for that 
of others. The producer-exchanger feels now as he has always 
felt — but this time he feels it more acutely — that he is giving 
something of himself, his time and his life. Thus he wants 
recompense, however modest, for this gift. And to refuse him 
this recompense is to incite him to laziness and lower produc- 

We draw now a conclusion both sociological and practical. 
The famous Sura LXIV, 'Mutual Deception', given at Mecca 
to Mohammed, says: 

15. Your possessions and your children are only a trial 
and Allah it is with whom is a great reward. 

16. Therefore be careful [of your duty to] Allah as 
much as you can, and hear and obey and spend {sadaqa), 
it is better for your souls; and whoever is saved from the 
greediness of his soul, these it is that are the successful. 


17. If you set apart from Allah a goodly portion, He 
will double it for you and forgive you; and Allah is the 
multiplier of rewards, forbearing. 

18. The knower of the unseen and the seen, the mighty, 
the wise. 

Replace the name of Allah by that of the society or professional 
group, or unite all three; replace the concept of alms by that 
of co-operation, of a prestation altruistically made ; you will 
have a fair idea of the practice which is now coming into being. 
It can be seen at work already in certain economic groups and 
in the hearts of the masses who often enough know their own 
interest and the common interest better than their leaders do. 

3. Sociological and Ethical Conclusions 

We may be permitted another note about the method we 
have used. We do not set this work up as a model; it simply 
proffers one or two suggestions. It is incomplete: the analysis 
could be pushed farther. ^^ We are really posing questions for 
historians and anthropologists and offering possible lines of 
research for them rather than resolving a problem and laying 
down definite answers. It is enough for us to be sure for the 
moment that we have given sujfficient data for such an end. 
This being the case, we would point out that there 4s a 

ilieuristic_element. in our manner of treatment. The facts we 
have studied are all 'total', social phenomena. The word 
'general' may be preferred although we like it less. Some of the 
facts presented concern the whole of society and its institutions 
(as with potlatch, opposing clans, tribes on visit, etc.) ; others, 
in which exchanges and contracts are the concern of individuals, 
embrace a large number of institutions. 

\ These phenomena are at once legal, economic, religious, 
aesthetic, morphological and so on. They are legal in that they 
concern individual and collective rights, organized and diffuse 

I morality; they may be entirely obligatory, or subject simply to 
praise or disapproval. They are at once pt5litical ^nd domestic, 

I being of interest both to classes and to clans and families. They 


are religious; they concern true religion, animism, magic andl 
diffuse religious mentality. They are economic, for the notions'\ 
of value, utility, interest, luxury, wealth, acquisition, accumula- j 
tion, consumption and liberal and sumptuous expenditure are 
all present, although not perhaps in their modern senses. 
Moreover, these institutions have an important aesthetic side; 
which we have left unstudied; but the dances performed, the 
songs and shows, the dramatic representations given between 
camps or partners, the objects made, used, decorated, polished, 
amassed and transmitted with affection, received with joy, 
given away in triumph, the feasts in which everyone partici- 
pates — all these, the food, objects and services, are the source 
of aesthetic emotions as well as emotions aroused by interest. ^^ 
This is true not only of Melanesia but also, and particularly, 
of the potlatch of North- West America and still more true of 
the market-festival of the Indo-European world. Lastly, our 
phenomena are clearly morphological. Everything that happens 
in the course of gatherings, fairs and markets or in the feasts 
that replace them, presupposes groups whose duration exceeds 
the season of social concentration, like the winter potlatch of 
the Kwakiutl or the few weeks of the Melanesian maritime 
expeditions. Moreover, in order that these meetings may be 
carried out in peace, there must be roads or water for transport 
and tribal, inter-tribal or international alliances — commercium 
and connubium.^^ 

We are de aling_then with something more than a set of 
themes, more than institutional elements, more than institjir 
tions, more even th^n systems of institutions divisible into legal, 
economic, religious and other part^. We are concerned with 
'wholes', with systems in their entirety. We have not described 
them as if they were fixed, in a static or skeletal condition, and 
still less have we dissected them into the rules and myths and 
values and so on of which they are composed. It is only by 
considering themjis wholesjthat we ha ve been able to see their 
essence, their operation and their living aspect, and to catch 
the fleeting moment when the society and its members take 
emotional stock of themselves and their situation as regards 


Others. Only by making such concrete observation of social life 
is it possible to come upon facts such as those which our study 
is beginning to reveal. Not hing in our opinio n is m ore urgent 
orjjromising than research into 'total' social phenomena. 
- — -The advantage is twofold. Firstly there is an advantage in 
generality, for facts of widespread occurrence are more likely 
to~beniriiversal than local institutions or themes, which are 
invariably tinged with local colour. But particularly the 
advantage is in realism. We see social facts in the round, as 
they really are. In society there are not merely ideas and rules, 
but also men and groups and their behaviours. We see them 
in motion as an engineer sees masses and systems, or as we 
observe octopuses and anemones in the sea. We see groups of 
men, and active forces, submerged in their environments and 

Historians believe and justly resent the fact that sociologists 
make too many abstractions and separate unduly the various 
elements of society. We should follow their precepts and 
observe what is given. The tangible fact is Rome or Athens or 
the average Frenchman or the Melanesian of some island, and 
not prayer or law as such. Whereas formerly sociologists were 
obliged to analyse and abstract rather too much, they should 
now force themselves to reconstitute the whole. This is the way 
to reach incontestable Tacts. They will also find a way of satis- 
fying psychologists who have a pronounced viewpoint, and 
particularly psycho-pathologists, since there is no doubt that the 
object of their study is concrete. They all observe, or at least 
ought to, minds as wholes and not minds divided into faculties. 
We should follow suit.. The study of the concretCj which is the- 
study of the whole, is made more readily, is more interesting 
and furnishes more explanations in the sphere of sociology than 
the study of the abstract. For we observe complete and complex 
beings. We too describe them in their organisms and psychai as 
well as in their behaviour as groups, with the attendant psy- 
choses: sentiments, ideas and desires of the crowd, of organized 
societies and their sub-groups. We see bodies and their reac- 
tions, and their ideas and sentiments as interpretations or as 


motive forces. The aim and principle of sociology is to observe 
and understand the whole group in its total behaviour. 

It is not possible here — it would have meant extending a 
restricted study unduly — to seek the morphological implica- 
tions of our facts. It may be worth while, however, to indicate 
the method one might follow in such a piece of research. 

All the societies we have described above with the exception 
of our European societies are segmentary. Even the Indo- 
Europeans, the Romans before the Twelve Tables, the Ger- 
manic societies up to the Edda, and Irish society to the time of 
its chief literature, were still societies based on the clan or on 
great families more or less undivided internally and isolated 
from each other externally. All these were far removed from 
the degree of unification with which historians have credited 
them or which is ours today. Within these groups the indivi- 
duals, even the most influential, were less serious, avaricious 
and selfish than we are; externally at least they"vvere^nd are 
generous and more ready to give. In tribal feasts, in ceremonies 
of rival clans, allied famihes or those that assist at each other's 
initiation, groups visit each other; and with the development 
of the law of hospitality in more advanced societies, the rules 
of friendship and the contract are present — along with the 
gods — to ensure the peace of markets and villages; at these 
times men meet in a curious frame of mind with exaggerated 
fear and an equally exaggerated generosity which appear 
stupid in no one's eyes but our own. lln these primitive and 
archaic societies there is no middle path. There is either com- 
plete"Tfust or mistrust./ One lays down one's arms, renounces 
magic and gives everything away, from casual hospitality to 
one's daughter or one's property. It is in such conditions that 
men, despite themselves, learnt to renounce what was theirs 
and made contracts to give and repay. 

But then they had no choice in the matter. When two 
groups of men meet they may move away or in case of mistrust 
or defiance they may resort to arms; or else they can come to 
terms. Business has always been done with foreigners, although 
these might have been allies. The people of Kiriwina said to 


Malinowski: 'The Dobu man is not good as we are. He is 
fierce, he is a man-eater. When we come to Dobu, we fear him, 
he might kill us! But see! I spit the charmed ginger root and 
their mind turns. They lay down their spears, they receive us 
well.'^' Nothing better expresses how close together lie festival 
and warfare. 

Thurnwald describes with reference to another Melanesian 
tribe, with genealogical material, an actual event which shows 
just as clearly how these people pass in a group quite suddenly 
from a feast to a battle.^^ Buleau, a chief, had invited Bobal, 
another chief, and his people to a feast which was probably to 
be the first of a long series. Dances were performed all night 
long. By morning everyone was excited by the sleepless night 
of song and dance. On a remark made by Buleau one of Bobal's 
men killed him; and the troop of men massacred and pillaged 
and ran off with the women of the village. 'Buleau and Bobal 
were more friends than rivals' they said to Thurnwald. We all 
have experience of events like this. 

It is by opposing reason to emotion and setting up the will 
for peace against rash follies of this kind that peoples succeed 
in substituting alliance, gift and commerce for war, isolation 
and stagnation. 

The research proposed would have some conclusion of this 
kind. Soci gties ha ^^-pregressed in-thejneasure in which they, 
their sub-groups and their members, have been able to stabilize 
:their contracts and to give, receive and repay. In order to 
trade, man must^fir^ lay down his spear. When that is done 
he can succeed in exchanging goods and persons not only 
between clan and clan but between tribe and tribe and nation 
and nation, and above all between individuals. It is only then 
that people can create, can satisfy their interests mutually and 
define them without recourse to arms. It is in this way that the 
clan, the tribe and nation have learnt — just as in the future the 
classes and nations and individuals will learn — how to oppose 
one another without slaughter and to give without sacrificing 
themselves to others. That is one of the secrets of their wisdom 
and solidarity. 


There is no other course feasible. The Chronicles of Arthur ^^ 
relate how King Arthur, with the help of a Cornish carpenter, 
invented the marvel of his court, the miraculous Round Table 
at which his knights would never come to blows. Formerly 
because of jealousy, skirmishes, duels and murders had set 
blood flowing in the most sumptuous of feasts. The carpenter 
says to Arthur: T will make thee a fine table, where sixteen 
hundred may sit at once, and from which none need be 
excluded. . . . And no knight will be able to raise combat, for 
there the highly placed will be on the same level as the lowly.' 
There was no 'head of the table' and hence no more quarrels. 
Wherever Arthur took his table, contented and invincible 
remained his noble company. And this today is the way of the 
nations that are strong, rich, good and happy. Peoples, classes, 
families and individuals may become rich, but they will not 
achieve happiness until they can sit down like the knights 
around their common riches. There is no need to seek far for 
goodness and happiness. It is to be found in the imposed peace, 
in the rhythm of communal and private labour, in wealth 
amassed and redistributed, in the mutual respect and reciprocal 
generosity that education can impart. 

Thus we see how it is possible under certain circumstances 
to study total human behaviour; and how that concrete study 
leads not only to a science of manners, a partial social science, 
but even to ethical conclusions — 'civility', or 'civics' as we say 
today. Through studies of this sort we can find, measure and 
assess the various determinants, aesthetic, moral, religious and 
economic, and the material and demographic factors, whose 
sum is the basis of society and constitutes the common life, and 
whose conscious direction is the supreme art — politics in the 
Socratic sense of the word. 



5th, yth, gth or 12th Report: Boas, 'Reports on the Tribes of N.W. Canada' 

in British Association for the Advancement of Science, 189 1-8. 
nth Census: 'Report on the Population, etc., of Alaska' in Eleventh Alaskan 

Census, 1900. 
19 Tears: Turner, Nineteen Tears in Polynesia. 
A.M.N.H. : Report of the American Museum of Natural History. 
Andamans: A. R. Brown (A. R. Radcliffe-Brown), The Andaman Islanders. 
Anuc.: Anucasanaparvan, Book XIII of the Mahabharata. 
A.R.B.A.E.: Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 
Argonauts: Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific. 
A.S. : L'Annee Sociologique. 
B.A.E.: The Bureau of American Ethnology. 

Chukchee: Bogoras, 'The Chukchee' in Jesup North Pacific Expedition, VII. 
Eth. Kwa. : Boas, 'Ethnology of the Kwakiutl', in Annual Report of the 

Bureau of American Ethnology, XXXV. 
Foi Juree: Davy, 'Foi Juree' in Travaux de V Annie Sociologique, 1922. 
Forschungen : Thurnwald, Forschungen auf den Salomo Inseln. 
Haida : Swanton, 'The Haida' in Jesup North Pacific Expedition, V. 
Haida Texts: Swanton, 'Haida Texts' in do., VI and X. 
Haida T. and M. : Swanton, 'Haida Texts and Myths' in Bulletin of the 

Bureau of American Ethnology, no. 29. 
H.M.S.: Rivers, History of the Melanesian Society. 
J.N.P.E. : Jesup North Pacific Expedition. 
J.P.S. : Journal of the Polynesian Society. 
J. R.A.I. : Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 
Koopen : Kruyt, 'Koopen in Midden Celebes' in Meded. der Konink. Akademie 

V. Wet., Afd. Letterk., 56, series B. 
Koryak : Jochelsen, 'The Koryak' in Jesup North Pacific Expedition, VI. 
Kwakiutl: Boas, 'The Kwakiutl Indians' in do., V. 
Kwa. T. I: Boas, 'Kwakiutl Texts', First Series, in do.. III. 
Kwa. T. II: Boas, 'Kwakiutl Texts', Second Series, in do., X. 
Magie et Droit: Huvelin, 'Magie et Droit Individuels'in Annie Sociologique, "ii.. 
Manuel: Giraud, Manuel Elementaire de Droit Romain, 7th edn. 
M.C.D. : Tregear, Maori Comparative Dictionary. 
Melanesians : Seligman, The Melanesians of British New Guinea. 
Prim. Ec: Malinowski, 'Primitive Economics' in Economic Journal, March 

Sec. Soc. : Boas, 'Secret Societies and Social Organization of the Kwakiutl 

Indians' in Report of the American Museum of Natural History, 1895. 
Textes : Giraud, Textes de Droit Romain. 
Tlingit: Swanton, 'The Tlingit Indians' in Annual Report of the Bureau of 

American Ethnology, XXVI. 



Tlingit T. and M. : Swanton, 'Tlingit Texts and Myths' in Bulletin of the 

Bureau of American Ethnology, no. 39. 
T.N.Z-I-: Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. 
Tsim. Myth. : Boas, 'Tsimshian Mythology' in Annual Report of the Bureau 

of American Ethnology, XXXI. 
Walde: Walde, Lateinisches Etymologisches Wdrterbuch. 


^ Cassel in his Theory of Social Economy, Vol. II, p. 345, mentions this text. 

* I have been unable to consult Burckhard, Z^m Begriff der Schenkung, 
pp. 53 ff. But for Anglo-Saxon law our immediate point has been noted 
by Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, Vol. II, p. 82: 'The wide 
word "gift" . . . will cover sale, exchange, gage and lease.' Cf. pp. 12, 
212-14: 'Perhaps we may doubt whether ... a purely gratuitous promise 
. . . would have been enforced.' See also the essay by Neubecker on the 
Germanic dowry. Die Mitgift, 1909, pp. 65 ff. 

' 'Foi Juree' ; see bibliography in Mauss, 'Une Forme archaique de 
Contrat chez les Thraces' in Revue des Etudes Grecques, 1921; R. Lenoir, 
'L'Institution du Potlatch' in Revue Philosophique, 1924. 

* M. F. Samlo, Der GUterverkehr in der Urgesellschaft, Institut Solvay , 
1909, has some sound discussion on this, and on p. 156 suggests that he is 
on the lines of our own argument. 

* Grierson, Silent Trade, 1903, argued conclusively against this view. 
See also Von Moszkowski, Wirtschaftsleben der primitiven Volker, 191 1; 
although he considers theft to be primitive and confuses it with the right 
to take. A good exposition of Maori data is to be found in W. von Brun, 
'Wirtschaftsorganisation der Maori' in Beitrdgungen Lamprecht, 18, 19 12, 
in which a chapter is devoted to exchange. The most recent comprehensive 
work on so-called primitive economics is Koppers, 'Ethnologische Wirt- 
schaftsordnung', in Anthropos, 1915-16, pp. 611-51 and 971-1079; strong 
on presentation of material but for the rest rather hair-splitting. 

* We wrote recently that in Australia, especially on a death, there is 
the beginning of exchange on a tribal basis, and not merely amongst clans 
and phratries. Among the Kakadu of the Northern Territory there are 
three mortuary ceremonies. During the third the men have a kind of inquest 
to find out who is the sorcerer responsible for the death. Contrary to normal 
Australian custom no feud follows. The men simply gather with their spears 
and state what they require in exchange. Next day the spears are taken to 
another tribe, e.g. the Umoriu, who reaUze the reason for the visit. The 
spears are piled and in accordance with a known scale the required objects 
are set before them. Then the Kakadu take them away (Baldwin Spencer, 
Tribes of the Northern Territories, 19 14, p. 247). Spencer then states that the 
objects can then be exchanged for spears, a fact we do not fully understand. 
But he fails to see the connection between the mortuary ceremony and the 
exchange of gifts, adding that the natives themselves do not see it. But the 
custom is easy enough to understand. It is a pact which takes the place of 
a feud, and which sets up an inter-tribal market. The exchange of objects 



is simultaneously an exchange of peace pledges and of sentiments of 
solidarity in mourning. In Australia this is normally seen only between clans 
and families which are in some way associated or related by marriage. The 
only difference here is that the custom is extended to the tribal basis. 

^ A poet as late as Pindar could say veavla yafi^pw TTpoirivoiv oiKodev 
ot/caSe, Olympiads, VIII, 4. The whole passage still reflects the kind of 
situation we are describing. The themes of the gift, of wealth, marriage, 
honour, favour, alliance, of shared food and drink, and the theme of 
jealousy in marriage are all clearly represented. 

• See specially the remarkable rules of the ball game among the Omaha : 
Fletcher and la Flesche, 'Omaha Tribe' in A.R.B.A.E., 1905-6, pp. 197 
and 366. 

* Krause, Tlingit Indianer, pp. 234 ff., notes the character of the festivals 
and rituals although he did not call them 'potlatch'. Boursin in Eleventh 
Census, pp. 54-66, and Porter, ibid. p. 33, saw and named the reciprocal 
glorification in the potlatch. Swanton, however, has the best commentary, 
in 'Social Conditions ... of the Tlingit Indians' in A.R.B.A.E., XXVI, 
345, Cf. our notes in A.S., XI, 207 and in Foi Jurie, p. 172. 

1" On the meaning of the word potlatch, see Barbeau, Bulletin de la 
Societe de Geographie de Quibec, 191 1, and Foi Jurie, p. 162. It seems to us, 
however, that Davy does not take into account the original meaning of 
the word. Boas, admittedly for the Kwakiutl and not the Chinook, uses the 
word 'feeder', although the literal meaning is 'Place of getting Satiated' 
— Kwa. T., II, p. 43; cf. Kwa. T., I, pp. 255, 517. But the two meanings 
suggested, gift and food, are not exclusive since the usual content of the 
gift, here at any rate, is food. 

11 The legal aspect of potlatch has been discussed by Adam in his 
articles in the Z^itschrift fur vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft starting 191 1, and 
in the Festschrift to Seler, 1920, and by Davy in Foi Jurie. The economic 
and ritual aspects are no less important and merit the same detailed study. 
The religious nature of the people involved and of the objects exchanged or 
destroyed have a bearing on the nature of the contracts, as have the values 
attributed to them. 

" The Haida call it 'killing wealth'. 

i« See Hunt's documents in Eth. Kwa., p. 1340, where there is an 
interesting description of the way the clan brings its potlatch contributions 
to the chief, and a record of some of the discourses. The chief says: 'It 
will not be in my name. It will be in your name, and you will become famous 
among the tribes, when it is said that you have given your property for a 
potlatch' (p. 1342). 

1* The potlatch is not confined to the tribes of the North- West. We 
consider also the 'Asking Festival' of the Alaskan Eskimo as something more 
than a mere borrowing from neighbouring Indian tribes. 

" See our observations in A.S., XI, loi and XIII, 372-4, and Anthro- 
pologie, 1920. Lenoir notes two clear potlatch traits in South America, 
'Expeditions Maritimes en Melane'sie' in Anthropologic, Sept. 1924. 

" Thurnwald, in Forschungen, Vol. Ill, 19 12, p. 8, uses this word. 

^' Revue des Etudes Grecques, XXXIV, 1921. 


Chapter I 

1 Davy, in Foi Jurie, p. 140, studies these exchanges with reference to 
the marriage contract. Here we point out further impUcations. 

* 19 Years, p. 178; Samoa, pp. 82 ff. ; Stair, Old Samoa, p. 75. 
8 Kramer, Samoa-Inseln, Vol. II, pp. 52-63. 

* Stair, Old Samoa, p. 180; Turner, 19 Tears, p. 225; Samoa, p. 91. 
'Turner, 19 Tears, p. 184; Samoa, p. 91. 

* Kramer, Samoa-Inseln, Vol. II, p. 105; Turner, Samoa, p. 146. 

' Kramer, ibid., pp. 96, 313. The malaga trading expedition (cf. the 
walaga of New Guinea) is very like the potlatch and characteristic of the 
neighbouring Melanesian archipelago. Kramer uses the word Gegenschenk 
for the exchange of oloa and tonga which we shall discuss. We do not intend 
to follow the exaggerations of the English school of Rivers and Elliot Smith 
or those of the Americans who, after Boas, see the whole American potlatch 
as a series of borrowings, but still we grant that an important part is played 
by the spreading of institutions. It is specially important in this area where 
trading expeditions go great distances between islands and have done from 
early times; there must have been transmitted not only the articles of 
merchandise but also methods of exchange. Malinow^ki, whom we quote 
later, recognizes this. See Lenoir, 'Expeditions mari times en Melanesie' 
in Anthropologie, 1924. 

* Rivalry among Maori clans is often mentioned, particularly with 
regard to festivals, e.g. by S. P. Smith, J.P.S. XV, 87. 

• This is not properly potlatch because the counter-prestation lacks the 
element of usury. But as we shall see with the Maori the fact that no return 
is made implies the loss of mana, or of 'face' as the Chinese say ; the same 
is true for Samoa. 

*" Turner, 19 Tears, p. 178; Samoa, p. 52. The theme of honour through 
ruin is fundamental to North-West American potlatch. 

^1 Turner, 19 Tears, p. 1 78; Samoa, p. 83, says the young man is 'adopted'. 
This is wrong; it is fosterage. Education is outside his own family certainly, 
but in fact it marks a return to his uterine family (the father's sister is the 
spouse of the mother's brother). In Polynesia both maternal and paternal 
relatives are classificatory. See our review of E. Best, Maori Nomenclature 
in A.S., VII, 420 and Durkheim's remarks in V, 37. 

" 19 Tears, p. 179; Samoa, p. 83. 

" See our remarks on the Fiji vasu in 'Proc^ verbal de I'l.F.A.', Anthro- 
pologie, 1 92 1. 

^* Kramer, Samoa-Inseln, Vol. I, p. 482; Vol. II, p. 90. 

1* Ibid., Vol. II, p. 296. Cf. p. 90 [toga equals Mitgift) ; p. 94 exchanges 
of oloa and toga. 

^* Ibid., Vol. I, p. 477. Violette, Dictionnaire Samoan-Frangais, defines toga 
as 'native valuables consisting of fine mats, and oloa valuables such as 
houses, cloth, boats, guns'; and he refers back to oa, valuables in general. 

" ig Tears, p. 179; cf. p. 186; M.C.D., p. 468 under taonga confuses this 
with oloa. 

86 THE GIFT CH. 1 

The Rev. Ella, 'Polynesian Native Clothing', in J.P.S., VIII, 165, 
describes the ie tonga (mats); they were 'the chief wealth of the natives; 
indeed at one time were used as a medium of currency in payment for 
work, etc., also for barter, interchange of property, at marriage and other 
special occasions of courtesy. They are often retained in families as heir- 
looms, and many old ie are well known and more highly valued as having 
belonged to some celebrated family.' Cf Turner, Samoa, p. 120. We shall 
see that these expressions have their equivalents in Melanesia, in North 
America and in our own folklore. 

" Kramer, Samoa-Inseln, Vol. II, pp. 90, 93. 

*• See M.C.D. under taonga: (Tahitian) tataoa, to give property, yflateoa, 
to compensate; (Marquesan) Lesson, Polynesiens, Vol. II, p. 232, taetae; 
tiau tae-tae, presents given, 'local produce given in exchange for foreign 
goods'. Radiguet, Derniers Sauvages, p. 157. The root of the word is tahu, etc. 

*" See Mauss, 'Origines de la Notion de la Monnaie' in Anthropologic, 
19 14, where most of the facts quoted, except for Negrito and American 
material, belong to this domain. 

*^ Proverbs, p. 103. 

^^ Maori Momentoes, p. 21. 

*' In Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, I, 354. 

** New Zealand tribes are divided in theory by the Maori themselves 
into fishermen, agriculturalists and hunters, who are supposed to exchange 
their produce. Cf. Best, 'Forest-Lore', in 7".JV.^./., XLII, 435. 

"' Ibid., p. 431; translation, p. 439. 

** The word hau, like the Latin spiritus, means both wind and soul. More 
precisely hau is the spirit and power of inanimate and vegetable things. 
The word mana is reserved for men and spirits and is not applied to things 
as much as in Melanesian languages. 

" Utu means satisfaction in blood vengeance. 

^* He hau. These sentences were all abridged by Best. 

'• Many facts illustrating this point were collected by R. Hertz in his 
Pechi et V Expiation. They show that the sanction against theft is the mystical 
effect of the mana of the object stolen; moreover, the object is surrounded 
by taboos and marked by its owner, and has hau, spiritual power, as a 
result. This hau avenges theft, controls the thief, bewitches him and leads 
him to death or constrains him to restore the object. 

*' In Hertz will be found material on the mauri to which we allude here. 
Mauri are talismans, safeguards and sanctuaries where the clan soul (hapu) 
dwells with its mana and the hau of its land. 

Best's documents require more comment than we can give here, 
especially those concerned with hau whitia and kai hau. See especially 
'Spiritual Concepts' in J.P.S., X, 10 (Maori text), and IX, 198. Best 
translates hau whitia well as 'averted hau\ The sins of theft, of non-repay- 
ment, of non-counter-prestation are a 'turning aside' of the spirit {hau) as 
in the case of a refusal to make an exchange or give a present. Kai hau is 
badly translated as the equivalent of hau whitia. It implies the act of eating 
the soul, and may well be synonymous with whangai hau (cf. Tregear, 


M.C.D., under kai and whangai). But kai refers to food and the word alludes 
to the sharing of food and the fault of remaining in debt over it. Further, 
the word hau itself also belongs to the realm of ideas. Williams, Maori 
Dictionary, p. 47, says ^hau, return present by way of acknowledgement for 
a present received'. 

31 We draw attention to the expression kai-hau-kai, M.C.D., p. 116: 'The 
return present of food, etc., made by one tribe to another. A feast (in the 
South).' This signifies that the return gift is really the 'spirit' of the original 
prestation returning to its point of departure ; 'food that is the hau of other 
food.' European vocabularies have not the ability to describe the complexity 
of these ideas. 

** The taonga seem to have an individuality beyond that of the hau, 
which derives from their relationship with their owner. They bear names. 
According to the best authorities (M.C.D. under pounamu, from the manu- 
script of Colenso) they comprise: the pounamu, jades that are the sacred 
property of the clan chiefs; the rare, sculptured tiki; various kinds of mats 
of which one is called koruwai (the only Maori word recalling the Samoan 
oloa, although we have sought for an equivalent). A Maori document gives 
the name taonga to the karakia, individual heritable magic spells. J.P.S., 
IX, 126, 133. 

" E. Best, 'Forest Lore', in T.N-Z-U XLII, 449. 

'* We should really discuss here the ideas implied in the interesting 
Maori expression 'to despise tahu\ The main document is Best, 'Maori 
Mythology', xaJ.F.S., IX, 1 13. Tahu is a symbolic name for food in general, 
its personification. 'Do not despise tahiC is the injunction to a person who 
refuses a gift of food. It would take much space to study Maori food beliefs 
so we simply point out that this personification of food is identical with 
Rongo, the god of plants and of peace. The association of ideas becomes 
clearer: hospitality, food, communion, peace, exchange, law. 

" See Best, 'Spiritual Concepts' in J.P.S., IX, 198. 

•* See Hardeland, Dayak Worterhuch under indjok, irek, pahuni. The 
comparative study of these institutions could be extended to cover the 
whole of Malayan, Indonesian and Polynesian civilization. The only 
difficulty is in recognizing the institution. For instance, it is under the name 
of 'compulsory trade' that Spencer St. John describes the way in which 
(in Brunei) the aristocrats seek tribute from the Bisayas by first giving them 
a present of cloth to be repaid with high interest over a number of years 
{Life in the Forests of the Far East, Vol. II). The error arises from the custom 
of civilized Malayans of borrowing cultural traits from their less civilized 
brothers without understanding them. We do not enumerate all the 
Indonesian data on this point. 

" Not to invite one to a war dance is a sin, a fault which, in the South 
Island, is called puha. H. T. de Croisilles, 'Short Traditions of the South 
Island' isxJ.P.S., X, 76. (Note tahua means a gift of food.) 

Maori ritual of hospitality comprises: an obligatory invitation that 
should not be refused or solicited; the guest must approach the reception 
house looking straight ahead; his host should have a meal ready for him 
straight away and himself partake of it humbly; on leaving, the guest 


receives a parting gift (Tregear, The Maori Race, p. 29). See later, identical 
rites in Hindu hospitality. 

In fact the two rules are closely connected like the gifts they prescribe. 
Taylor, Te ika a mani, p. 132, no. 60, translates a proverb expressing this: 
'When raw it is seen, when cooked it is taken' (it is better to eat half-cooked 
food and to wait until strangers arrive than to have it cooked and be 
obliged to share it with them). 

Chief Hekemaru, according to legend, refused food unless he had been 
seen and received by the village he was visiting. If his procession passed 
through unnoticed and then messengers arrived begging him to return 
and take food, he replied that 'food would not follow his back'. He meant 
that food offered to the 'sacred back of his head' would endanger those 
who gave it. Hence the proverb: 'Food will not follow at the back of 
Hekemaru' (Tregear, The Maori Race, p. 79). 

'* Among the tribe of Tuhoe Best ('Maori Mythology' in J.P.S., VIII, 
113) saw these principles: When a famous chief is to visit a district, his 
mana precedes him. The people hunt and fish for good food. They get 
nothing. 'That is because our mana has preceded us and driven all the food 
(fish and birds) afar off that they may not be visible to the people. Our 
mana has banished them.' (There follows an explanation of snow in terms 
of whai riri — a sin against water — which keeps food away from men.) This 
rather difficult passage describes the condition of the land as the result of 
a hapu of hunters who had failed to make preparations to receive the chief 
of another clan. They would have committed kaipapa, a ' sin against food', 
and thus destroyed their cultivations, hunting grounds and fisheries — their 
entire sources of food. 

*» E.g. Arunta, Unmatjera, Kaitish; Spencer and Gillen, Northern 
Tribes of Central Australia, p. 610. 

*" On vasu see especially Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, 1858, Vol. I, 
p. 34, and cf. Steinmetz, Entwickelung fUr die Strafe, Vol. II, pp. 241 ff. 
The right of the sister's son is only analogous to family communism. There 
are other rights present, the right of in-laws and what may be called 
'permitted theft'. 

*i See Chukchee. Obligation to give, receive and return gifts and hos- 
pitality is more marked with the Maritime than the Reindeer Chukchee. 
See 'Social Organization', J.N.P.E., VII, 634, 637. Cf. rules for sacrificing 
and slaughtering reindeer. 'Religion', ibid., II, 375; the duty of inviting, 
the right of the guest to demand what he wants and his obligation to give 
a present. 

** The obligation to give is a marked Eskimo characteristic. See our 
'Variations saisonni^res des Societes Eskimos' in A.S., IX, 121. A recent 
work on the Eskimo gives other tales which impart generosity: Hawkes, 
'The Labrador Eskimo' in Canadian Geological Survey, Anthropological Series, 

P- 159- 

In 'Variations saisonni&res' we considered Alaskan Eskimo feasts as a 
combination of Eskimo elements and potlatch borrowings. But since 
writing that we have found the true potlatch as well as gift customs described 
for the Chukchee and Koryak in Siberia, so the Eskimo might have bor- 


rowed from them. Also the plausible theory of Sauvageot ('Journal des 
Americanistes', 1924) on the Asiatic origin of Eskimo languages should 
be taken into account. This theory confirms the archaeological and anthro- 
pological theories on the origin of the Eskimo and their civilization. 
Everything points to the fact that the western Eskimo are nearer the origin 
linguistically and ethnologically than the eastern and central. This seems 
proved by Thalbitzer. 

One must then say that the eastern Eskimo have a potlatch of very 
ancient origin. The special totems and masks of the western festivals are 
clearly of Indian derivation. The disappearance in east and central Arctic 
America of the Eskimo potlatch is ill explained except by the gradual 
degeneration of the eastern Eskimo societies. 

*^ Hall, Life with the Esquimaux, Vol. II, p. 320. It is remarkable that this 
is found not with reference to the Alaskan potlatch, but to the central 
Eskimo, who have only communal winter festivals and gift exchange. This 
shows that the notion extends beyond the limits of the potlatch proper. 

** Nelson, 'Eskimos about Behring Straits' in A.R.B.A.E., XVIII, 303, 
and Porter, nth Census, pp. 138, 141, and especially Wrangold, Statistische 
Ergebnisse, etc., p. 132. For the 'asking stick', cf Hawkes, 'The Inviting-in 
Feast of the Alaskan Eskimos' in Canadian Geological Survey, Memo. 45, 
Anthropological Series, II, 7. 

** Hawkes, ibid., pp. 3, 7. Cf p. 9 description of one such festival, 
Unalaklit v. Malemiut. One of the most characteristic traits is the series 
of comical prestations on the first day and the gifts concerned. One tribe 
tries to make the other laugh and can demand anything it wants. The best 
dancers receive valuable presents (pp. 12-14). This is a clear and rare 
example (I know of others in Australia and America) of representation in 
ritual of a theme which is frequent enough in mythology: the spirit of 
jealousy which, when it laughs, leaves hold of its object. 

The Inviting-in Festival ends with a visit of the angekok (shaman) to 
the spirit-men, inua, whose mask he wears and who tell him they have 
enjoyed the dance and will send game. Cf. the gift made to seals, Jennes, 
'Life of the Copper Eskimos' in Report of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, 
Vol. XII, 1922, p. 178. 

Other themes of gift-giving customs are strongly marked; e.g. the chief 
naskuk has no right to refuse a gift or food however scarce it may be for 
fear of being evermore disgraced. Hawkes, ibid., p. 9. 

Hawkes rightly considers (p. 1 9) the festival of the Dene described by 
Chapman [Congres des Americanistes de Quebec, 1907, Vol. II) as an Eskimo 
borrowing from Indians. 

** See illustration in Chukchee, p. 403. 

«Mbid., pp. 399-401. 

** Koryak, pp. 64, 90, 98. 

*' Chukchee, p. 400. On customs of this type see Frazer, The Golden Bough 
(3rd edn.), Vol. Ill, pp. 78-85, 91 ff. ; Vol. X, pp. 169 fif., also pp. i, 161. 

*" This is a basic trait of all North- West American potlatch. It is not 
very noticeable, however, since the ritual is so totemistic that its effect 
upon nature is less evident than its influence over spirits. It is more obvious 


in the Behring Straits, especially with the Chukchee and the Eskimo 
potlatch of Saint-Lawrence Isle. 

^^ See potlatch myth in Bogoras, Chukchee Mythology, p. 1 4. One shaman 
asks another: 'With what will you answer?' (i.e. make return gift). A 
struggle ensues but finally they come to an agreement; they exchange their 
magic knives and necklaces, then their (assistant) spirits and lastly their 
bodies (p. 15). Thereafter they are not entirely successful for they forget to 
exchange their bracelets and tassels ('my guide in motion'), p. 16. These 
objects have the same spiritual value as the spirits themselves. 

*'Jochelsen, 'Koryak Religion', J.N.P.E., VI, 30. A Kwakiutl spirit 
song (from winter ceremony shamanism) comments: 

'You send us all things from the other world, O spirits 
You heard that we were hungry 
We shall receive many things from you.' 

Sec. Sac, p. 487. 

^* Foi Jurie, pp. 224 ff., refers. 

'* Koopen, pp. 1 63-8, 1 58-9, 3 and 5 of the summary. 

^* Argonauts, p. 511. 

*' Ibid., pp. 72, 184. 

*' Ibid., p. 512. Cf. 'Baloma, Spirits of the Dead', m J.R.A.I., 1917. 

*8 The Maori myth of Te Kanava (Grey, Polynesian Mythology, Routledge 
edn., p. 213) relates how spirits took the shadows of the pounamu (jasper, 
etc. — in other words taonga) displayed in their honour. An identical myth 
from Mangaia (Wyatt Gill, Myths and Songs from the South Pacific, p. 257) 
tells the same tale about red shell necklaces and how they gain the favours 
of the beautiful Manapu. 

^^ Argonauts, p. 513. Malinowski (p. 510, etc.) lays too much claim to 
the novelty of his data which are identical with aspects of Tlingit and Haida 

'" 'Het Primitieve Denken, voorn. in Pokkengebruiken' in Bijdr. tot de 
Taal-, Land-, en Volkenk. v. Nederl. Indie, LXXI, 245-6. 

*^ Crawley, The Mystic Rose, p. 386, has already put forward a hypo- 
thesis on these lines, and Westermarck examined it and adduced some 
proof. See especially History of Human Marriage, 2nd edn.. Vol. I, pp. 394 ff. 
His approach is vitiated since he identifies the system of total prestations 
and the more highly developed potlatch in which the exchanges (including 
exchange of women in marriage) form only a part. On fertility in marriage 
assured by gifts made to the spouses see later. 

'* Vajasaneyisamhita. See Hubert and Mauss, 'Essai sur le Sacrifice' 
in A.S., II. 105. 

•* Tremearne, Haussa Superstitions and Customs, 19 13, p. 55. 

•* Tremearne, The Ban of the Bori, 19 15, p. 239. 

•^ Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 283 : the poor are the 
guests of God. 

•* The Betsimisaraka of Madagascar tell how of two chiefs one shared 
out all his possessions and the other kept all of his. God sent fortune to the 
generous chief and ruined the selfish one (Grandidier, Etknographie de 
Madagascar, Vol. II, p. 67). 


" See Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, Vol. I, 
Chap. XXIII on notions of alms, generosity and liberality. 

•* Questions tend to pose themselves after one's research is finished, 
and I have not been able to re-read all the literature. But I have no doubt 
that we could find many more significant traces of the potlatch in Polynesia, 
e.g. the display of food, hakari (Tregear, The Maori Race, p. 113) has many 
of the same details as the similarly named hekarai of the Koita Melanesians. 
See Seligman, Melanesians, pp. 14 1-5. On the hakari see also Taylor, Te 
ika a mani, p. 13; Yeats, An Account of New Zealand, 1835, p. 139. Cf Tregear, 
M.C.D. under hakari. Cf. a myth in Grey, Polynesian Mythology, p. 189 which 
describes the hakari of Maru, god of war, when the attitude of the recipients 
is identical with that in New Caledonian, Fijian and New Guinea festivals. 
A song collected by Sir E. Grey {Konga Moteatea, Mythology and Traditions 
in New Zealand, 1853, p. 132) has verse 2: 

'Give me taonga from this direction 

Give me taonga, that I may place in heaps 

To place them in heaps towards the land 

To place them in heaps towards the sea, etc. . . . 

Give me my taonga.'' 
It is seen how important the notion of taonga is to the ritual of the festival. 
Cf. Percy Smith, 'Wars of the Northern against the Southern Tribes' in 
J.P.S., VIII, 156. 

Even although the potlatch may not exist in present Polynesian society 
it may well have existed in the civilization overrun and absorbed by the 
immigration of Polynesians, and the latter themselves may have had it 
before their migration. There is in fact a good reason why it should have 
disappeared from a part of the area, for in the islands there is a hierarchy 
of clans clustered round a monarchy ; thus one of the chief conditions of 
the potlatch is absent: an unstable hierarchy changeable from time to 
time by the jealousy of chiefs. There are clearer traces with the Maori who 
have chiefs and where clans are set in rivalry against each other. 

See Kramer, Samoa-Inseln, Vol. I, p. 375 and index under ifoga for 
destruction of property of the American and Melanesian manner. Perhaps 
the Maori nuru, destruction of property following a misdemeanour, may 
be studied from this angle. In Madagascar the relationships amongst the 
Lohateny who trade and may insult or ruin each other also show traces of 
a former potlatch; Grandidier, Ethnologie de Madagascar, Vol. II, pp. 13 1-3; 
cf. p. 155. 

Chapter II 

^ Die Stellung der Pygmdenvolker, 19 10. We do not agree with Father 
Schmidt on this point. See A.S., XII, 65 ff. 

* Andamans, p. 83. 'Although the natives themselves regarded the 
objects thus given as being presents, yet when a man gave a present to 
another he expected that he would receive something of equal value in 
return, and would be very angry if the return present did not come up to 
his expectations.' 


' Andamans, pp. 73, 81 ; cf. p. 237. Radcliffe-Brown then observes how 
unstable the contractual activities are, how they lead to sudden quarrels 
although the point of the exchange is to dispel them. 

* Ibid., p. 237, 
''Ibid., p. 81. 

• Cf. the kalduke and ngia-ngiampe with the Narrinyeri and the yutchin 
among the Dieri. 

' Andamans, p. 237. 

' Ibid., pp. 245-6. Radcliffe-Brown produces an excellent sociological 
theory on these manifestations of solidarity, on the identity of sentiments 
and the character of the manifestations at once constrained and spontaneous. 
There is a related problem to which we drew attention in 'Expression 
obligatoire des Sentiments' in Journal de Psychologie, 192 1. 

" One might mention again the question of money in Polynesia. Axes, 
jades, tikis, cachelot teeth are doubtless to be reckoned no less than shells 
and crystals as currency. 

^° 'La Monnaie Neo-Cale'donienne' in Revue d^Ethnographie, 1922, p. 328; 
on money in funeral ceremonies, p. 322. See also 'La Fete du Pilou en 
Nouvelle-Caledonie'j Anthropologie, 1922, pp. 226 ff. 

^^ Ibid., pp. 236-7; cf. pp. 250-1. 

" Ibid., p. 247. 

" Ibid., p. 263; cf. 'La Monnaie Caledonienne', p. 332. 

^* This resembles Polynesian symbolism. In the Mangaia Islands peace 
was symbolized by a well-built house with a sound roof in which the gods 
and the clans might gather ; Wyatt Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, 
p. 294. 

^* P^re Lambert, Mceurs des Sauvages Neo-Caledoniens, 1900, describes 
numerous potlatches, one in 1856, on p. 119; series of funeral feasts, pp. 
"234-5; potlatch on a second burial, pp. 240-6; the humiliation and possible 
flight of a vanquished chief is the occasion of uru-eturned gifts and pot- 
latches, p. 53. 'Everyone demands another present in return', p. 116. The 
return gifts are exposed in the display house, p. 125. Presents on visits are 
obligatory. They are necessary on marriage, pp. 10, 93-4; they are irre- 
vocable and their return is made 'with usury' especially to the bengam, a 
kind of cousin, p. 215. The trianda dance of presents, p. 158. 

^' See 'Kula' in Man, July 1920, and Argonauts. 

^' Malinowski overrates the novelty of his facts, pp. 313-15. The kula 
is really an inter-tribal potlatch of a kind common enough in Melanesia, 
to which belong the expeditions of this kind described by P^re Lambert in 
New Caledonia, and the great Olo-olo of the Fijians, etc. See Mauss, 'Ex- 
tension du Potlatch en MeJanesie' in Anthropologie, 1920. The meaning of 
the word kula is akin to that of various similar words, e.g. ulu-ulu. See 
H.M.S., Vol. II, pp. 415, 485, and Vol. I, p. 160. In certain aspects the 
kula is less characteristic than the American potlatch, for here the islands 
are smaller and the societies less strong and wealthy than those off the 
coast of British Columbia where all the traits of the inter-tribal potlatch 
are found. There are many international potlatches, e.g. Haida v. Tlingit 
(Sitka was a common village and Nass River a favourite meeting place) ; 


Kwakiutl v. Bellacoola and Heiltsuq; Haida v. Tsimshian, etc.; this is 
natural for formal exchanges are normally extended across tribal boun- 
daries. Here as elsewhere they have no doubt blazed new trade-routes as 
well as following the old ones between wealthy maritime tribes. 

^* Argonauts, p. 473. Note the expression of modesty: 'My food left over, 
take it', referring to the gift of a valuable necklace. 

^* Ibid., pp. 95, 189, 193. It is in order to make himself understood to 
Europeans that the author, p. 187, counts the kula as ' ceremonial barter 
with deferred payment'. The words payment and barter are both European. 

2" See Prim. Ec. 

*i Cf. the rite of tanarere, display of expedition gains on the shore of 
Muwa, ibid., pp. 374-5, 391. Cf. uvalaku on Dobu, p. 381. The best, i.e. 
luckiest, business man is named. 

^"^ Wawqyla ritual, ibid., pp. 353-4; magic, pp. 360-3. 

*^ Ibid., p. 471. See frontispiece, PI. LX, etc., and p. 155. 

^* This morality is comparable with the fine paragraphs of the Nico- 
machean Ethics on fieyaXoTrpeneLa and iXevdepla. 

** Note on the principle adopted in discussing the idea of money. We insist, 
despite Malinowski's objection ('Primitive Currency', in Economics Journal, 
1923) on using this term. Malinowski {Argonauts, p. 499) protested against 
misuse and criticized the terminology of Seligman. Malinowski applies the 
term money to objects serving not only as a medium of exchange, but also 
as a standard of value. Simiand objected in the same way to the use of the 
term in this type of society. Both of them are surely right; they take the 
narrow meaning of the term. In this view there is economic value only 
when there is money. There is money only when precious objects, condensed 
wealth or tokens of wealth are made into money — when they are named, 
impersonalized, detached from any relationships with moral, collective or 
individual persons other than the authority of the state which mints them. 
The question is then what arbitrary limit we should impose on the use of 
the word. The above definition can cover only a secondary type of money 
— our own. 

In all societies preceding those which minted gold, bronze and silver, 
other things, particularly shells and precious metals, were used as a means 
of exchange and payment; in some present-day societies the same system 
holds, and it is this system we are describing. These precious objects differ, 
it is true, from what we are accustomed to consider as purchasing instru- 
ments. Beyond their economic nature they have a mystical nature and are 
talismans or 'life-givers', as Rivers, Perry and Jackson say. Moreover, they 
have a very general circulation within a society and between societies, but 
they are still attached to persons or clans (the first Roman coins were struck 
by gentes), to the individuality of their former possessors and to contracts 
made between moral beings. There value is still subjective. For instance 
the strings of pearls used as currency in Melanesia are still valued according 
to the measure of the person who gives them — H.M.S., Vol. II, p. 527; 
Vol. I, pp. 64, 71, 10 1, 160 ff. Cf. the expression Schulterfaden : Forschungen, 
Vol. Ill, pp. 41 ff.; Vol. I, p. 189; Huftschnur, Vol. I, p. 263. We shall note 
other examples of these institutions. It is true again that these values are 


unstable and that they are not of a proper character to be measured and 
stamped, for instance their value varies according to the number and size 
of the transactions in which they have taken part. MaUnowski shows for 
instance how vaygu'a acquire prestige in the course of their travels. In the 
same way the North-West American coppers and Samoan mats increase 
in value at each potlatch. 

But in two respects these valuables have the same function as money in 
our society and consequently deserve to be put at least in the same genus. 
They have the power to buy and this power can be computed. An American 
copper is paid for with so many blankets; a vaygu^a is worth so many 
baskets of yams. The idea of number is present although the number is 
not fixed by a state authority and is variable from one kula or potlatch to 
another. Moreover, this purchasing power is in fact liberating. Although it 
is recognized only between certain definite individuals, tribes or clans, and 
only among associates, it is none the less public, official and fixed. Brudo, 
a friend of Malinowski, and like him long resident in the Trobriands, paid 
his pearl fishermen in vaygu'a as well as in European money or goods at a 
fixed rate. The passage from one system to the other was made without 

We hold that mankind made a number of tentative steps. At first it 
was found that certain things, most of them magical and precious, were 
by custom not destroyed, and these were endowed with the power to 
exchange (see Mauss, 'Origine de la Notion de la Monnaie', Anthropologie, 
1914). In the second stage, mankind having succeeded in making things 
circulate within the tribe and far outside it found that these purchasing 
instruments could serve as a means to count wealth and make it circulate. 
This is the stage we are describing at present. The third stage began in 
ancient Semitic societies which invented the means of detaching these 
precious things from groups and individuals and of making them per- 
manent instruments of value measurement — universal, if not entirely 
rational — for lack of any better system. 

Thus we hold there was a form of money consisting, as in Africa and 
Asia today, of blocks and bars of copper, iron, etc., or cattle as in ancient 
society or present-day Afi^ica. 

** Argonauts, PI. XIX. It seems that Trobriand women, like the North- 
West American 'princesses', serve as a means of displaying wealth, which 
also 'charms' them. Cf. Forschungen, Vol. I, pp. 138, 159, 192. 

"Argonauts, map, p. 82. Cf. 'Kula' in Man, 1920, p. loi. Malinowski 
found no myths or other facts explaining the direction of the movements. 
A reason would be interesting to discover ; for, if the reason were contained 
in the things themselves tending to return to their point of origin, following 
some original mythical event, this would be very close to the Maori hau. 

*' On this trade and civilization see Melanesians, Chaps. XXXIII ff, 
Cf. A.S., XII, 374; Argonauts, p. 96. 

* • Argonauts, p. 94. 

»" Ibid., pp. 492, 502. 

*• The remote partner {murimuri, cf. muri, Melanesians, pp. 505, 572) is 
known to at least one of the series of partners. 


** See general observations on the ceremony, Argonauts, pp. 89-90. 

*' Ibid., p. 504, paired names, cf. pp. 89, 271. See myth, p. 323; the 
way in which soulava is spoken of. 

'* Ibid., p. 512. 

"Ibid., p. 513. 

*• Ibid., p. 340; commentary, p. 347, 

*^ On the use of the conch, ibid., pp. 340, 387, 471, PK LXL The conch 
is sounded on each transaction, at each solemn moment erf" the common 
feast, etc. On the distribution and history of the conch see Jackson, 'Pearls 
and Shells', University of Manchester Series, 1921. 

The use of trumpets, drums, etc., on feasts and contracts is met with in 
a great number of West African, Bantu, Asiatic, American, Indo-European, 
etc., societies. It is connected with the legal and economic themes we are 
discussing, and deserves wide study. 

^' Argonauts, p. 340, mwanita. Cf. the Kiriwina text of the first two lines, 
p. 448. This is the name of the long black-banded worm with which 
spondylus necklaces are identified (p. 340). There follows the spell: 'Come 
there together ; I will make you come there together ! Come here together ; 
I will make you come here together! The rainbow appears there; I will 
make the rainbow appear there! The rainbow appears here; I will make 
the rainbow appear here!' Malinowski, following the natives, considers 
the rainbow as a simple omen. It may also refer to the many colours of 
mother-of-pearl. The expression 'Come here together' relates to the valuable 
objects that will come together in the course of the contract, 'here' and 
'there' are represented simply by the sounds m and w, and are frequently 
used in magic. 

^•The word is translated (cf ibid., p. 449) munumweynise, redoubled 
form of mwana or mwaina which expresses the 'itching' or 'state of excite- 

*• I suppose there must have been a line like this because the author 
says formally on p. 340 that the principal word of the spell means the state 
of mind which should befall the partner and cause him to make generous 

** A taboo imposed during kula and s^oi mortuary festivals with a view 
to being able to collect the necessary amount of food, areca nuts and 
precious objects. Cf pp. 347-50. The spell extends also to food. 

** Names of various necklaces. They are not analysed. The names are 
made up of bagi- which means necklace and various other words. There 
follow other necklace names of an equally magical nature. This spell is 
for Sinaketa where necklaces are sought and bracelets left and so necklaces 
only are mentioned. An identical spell is used in the Kiriwina kula; but 
since bracelets are sought there it is bracelet names that are mentioned. 

The end of the spell is interesting but only from the point of view of the 
potlatch: 'I shall kula, I shall rob my kula; I shall steal my kula (partner); 
I shall pilfer my kula. I shall kula so as to make my canoe sink. . . . My 
fame is like thunder, my steps are like earthquake.' This looks strangely 
American, and there are analogies in Samoa. 

*' Ibid., p. 345. The end is the same as the one just noted. 


«« Argonauts, p. 343. Cf. p. 449. 

** Ibid., p. 348. This couplet follows a series of lines: 'Thy fury ebbs, 
it ebbs away. O man of Dobu. . . .' Then follows the same series with 
'woman of Dobu'. Dobu women are taboo while Kiriwina women prostitute 
themselves to the visitors. 

** Ibid., p. 356. Perhaps this is a myth to account for the directions. 

*' One might use L^vy-Bruhl's term 'participations' which implies 
confusion and the kinds of identification we are concerned with here. 

" Ibid., pp. 345 ff. 

♦» Ibid., p. 98. 

••* This word might also refer to the old type of boar's tooth currency, 

P- 353- 

•^ The lebu custom, p. 319. Cf. Myth, p. 313. 

" Ibid., p. 359. Of a well-known vqygu'a it is said: ' Many men died 
because of it'. In one case at least (Dobu, p. 356), it seems that the yotile 
is always a mwali, a bracelet, the feminine principle in the transaction: 
'We do not kwaypolu or pokala them, they are women.' But in Dobu 
only bracelets are sought and it may be that the fact has no further 

'^ It seems there are several kinds of transactions mixed up here. The 
basi may be a necklace (cf. p. 98) or a bracelet of lesser value. But articles 
not strictly kula may also be given in basi: lime spatulae for betel, coarse 
necklaces, large polished axes {beku) (cf. pp. 358, 486) which are also a 
kind of currency. 

" Ibid., pp. 157, 359. 

'^ Malinowski's book, like Thurnwald's, shows the superior observation 
of the trained sociologist. Thurnwald, noting similar facts in the mamoko 
{FoTschungen, Vol. Ill, p. 40), the Trostgabe in Buin, gave a lead in describing 
facts of this kind. 

^* Argonauts, p. 189, cf. PI. XXXVII. Cf. 'secondary trade', p. 100. 

'' These have the generic name of wawoyla, pp. 353-4; cf. pp. 360-1; 
cf. woyla, wooing for kula gifts, p. 439. This comes into a spell where all 
the articles which a future partner might possess are enumerated, and 
whose 'boiling' will decide the giver in his favour. 

'* This is the usual term; 'presentation goods', ibid., pp. 439, 205, 350. 
The word vata^i is used for the same presents given by the people of Dobu, 
cf. p. 391. These 'arrival gifts' are enumerated in the spell: 'My lime pot 
it boils; my comb it boils. . . .' In addition to these generic names there are 
special names for special gifts. The offerings of food taken by the people 
on Sinaketa to Dobu (and not vice versa), the pots, mats, etc., are called 
pokala, meaning simply 'offering'. Other pokala include the gugu'a (personal 
belongings), p. 501, cf. pp. 270, 313, which the individual takes to try to 
procure {pokapokala, p. 360) his future partner, cf. p. 369. In these societies 
there is a clear distinction made between articles for personal use and 
'properties' — durable things belonging to the family or to general circula- 

'• E.g. ibid., p. 313, buna. 

«" E.g. kaributu, pp. 344, 358. 


•^ Malinowski was told (ibid., p. 276) : 'My partner same as my clansman 
{kakaveyogu) — he might fight me. My real kinsman {veyogu), same navel- 
string, would always side with us.' 

** This is expressed in the kula formula mwasila. 

" The leaders of the expedition and the canoes have precedence. 

'* The amusing Kasabwaybwayreta myth (p. 322) in which the hero 
obtains the famous Gumakarakedakeda necklace and leaves all his kula 
companions mentions all these motives. See also myth of Tokosikuna, 

P- 307- 

" Ibid., p. 390. At Dobu, pp. 362, 365, etc. 

•' On the stone axe trade, see Melanesians, pp. 350-3. On the kortumna, 
Argonauts, pp. 358, 365; they are usually decorated whalebone spoons, 
decorated spatulae also used as basi. 

•' Argonauts, pp. 486-91. For the distribution of these customs throughout 
North Massim, see Melanesians, p. 584. Descriptions ofwalaga, pp. 594, 603; 
cf. Argonauts, pp. 486-7. 

«« Ibid., p. 479. 

*• Ibid., p. 472. 

""> The manufacture and gift of mwali by a brother-in-law \s youloy pp. 
280, 503. 

" Ibid., pp. 171 fF.; cf. pp. 98 fT. 

'* Those concerned with canoe-building, the collection of pots, or the 
furnishing of food. 

" Ibid., p. 167: ' The whole tribal life is permeated by a constant give 
and take; every ceremony, every legal and customary act is done to the 
accompaniment of material gift and counter-gift; wealth, given and taken, 
is one of the main instruments of social organization, of the power of the 
chief, of the bonds of kinship and of relationship in law.' Cf. pp. 175-6 
et passim. 

^* It may even be identical with kula, the partners bemg the same, 
p. 193; description oi wasi, pp. 187-8, cf. PI. XXXVI. 

'* The obligation remains in spite of the recent losses and inconveniences 
sustained by the pearl-fishers, who are obliged to take part in the fishing 
expedition and lose considerable income in virtue of custom. 

■"' Pis. XXXII, XXXIII. 

''"' Sagali means distribution, like the Polynesian hakari, ibid., p. 491. 
Cf. pp. 147-50, 170, 192-3. 

'* In mortuary feasts especially. Cf. Melanesians, pp. 594-603. 

''* Argonauts, p. 175. 

*" Ibid., p. 323; another term, kwaypolu, p. 356. 

" Ibid., pp. 378-9, 354. 

** Ibid., pp. 163, 373. The vakapula has subdivisions with their own 
names, e.g. vewoulo, initial gift, z.n6.yomelu, final gift. This shows the identity 
with the kula. Some of the payments have their own names : karibudaboda 
is the payment to canoe builders and more generally any who work, e.g. 
in the gardens — specially referring to the final payment after the harvest 
{urigubu in the case of annual gifts of harvest fruits to sister's husband, 
pp. 63-5, 181) and payment for necklaces, pp. 183, 394. This is also sousula 


if it is very large (cf. manufacture of spondylus discs, pp. 183, 373). Toulo 
is the payment for manufacturing a bracelet. Pmvayu is the payment of food 
given to encourage a team of wood-cutters. Cf the song p. 129: 'The pig, 
the coco drinks, the yams are finished, and yet we pull — very heavy!' 

The words vakapula and maptila are different forms of the word pula, 
vaka- being apparently the causative prefix. Mapula Malinowski translates 
as 'repayment'. It is generally compared with a poultice for it eases the 
pain and the tedium of the service rendered, compensates for the loss of 
an object or secret given away, or of the title or privilege ceded. 

*' Ibid., p. 179. Gifts for sexual services are buwana or sebuwana. 

** See preceding notes; in the same way kabigidqya, p. 164, is the cere- 
mony of presentation of a new canoe, the people who make it, the action 
of 'breaking the head of the new canoe', etc., as well as the gifts usuriously 
proffered. Other terms refer to the location of the canoe, p. 186, gifts of 
welcome, p. 232, etc. 

** Buna, big cowrie shell gifts, p. 317. 

*• Youlo, vaygu'a given as payment for harvest labour, p. 280. 

*' Ibid., pp. 186, 426, means apparently any usurious counter-presta- 
tion. Another name ula-ula stands for simple purchases of magic formulae 
{sousula if the payments or gifts are large, p. 183). Ula-ula refers also to 
presents offered to the dead as well as the living, p. 383. 

** Brewster, Hill Tribes of Fiji, 1922, pp. 91-2. 

" Ibid., p. 191. 

»<• Ibid., pp. 23-6. 

•^ Melanesians, glossary, p. 754; and pp. 77, 93-4, 109, 204. 

•* See description oi doa, ibid., pp. 71, 89, 91. 

" Ibid., pp. 95, 146. 

** Money is not the only thing in this system that the tribes of the Gulf 
of New Guinea call by a word identical to the Polynesian of the same 
meaning. We have noted the identity of the New Zealand hakari and the 
hakarai displays of food which Seligman describes from Metu and Koita — 
Melanesians, pp. 144-5, P^s. XVI-XVIII. 

'* Note the Mota (Banks Is.) dialect word tun, clearly the same as 
taonga, means 'to buy', especially a woman. Codrington, Melanesian 
Languages, pp. 307-8, in the myth of Q,at buying the night, translates it 
'to buy at a great price'. It is in fact a purchase according to potlatch rules, 
well attested from this part of Melanesia. 

** See document quoted in A.S., XII, 372. 

" See especially Forschungen, Vol. Ill, pp. 38-41. 

'* Zeitschrift fUr Ethnologie, 1922. 

'>'> Forschungen, Vol. Ill, PI. II. 

loo/n Primitive New Guinea, 1924, p. 294. Holmes' description of inter- 
mediate gifts is not good. See basi above. 

^"1 Koopen. This uncertainty about the words which we translate badly 
as buying and selling is not confined to the Pacific. We return to this later. 
We note here that in French vente means equally sale and purchase; while 
in Chinese there is difference in tone only between the words meaniiTg 
purchase and sale. 


102 But note the sale of slaves: Haida T. and M., p. 410. 

1°' Our survey is necessarily incomplete. We make an abstraction from 
a large number of tribes, principally the following: (i) Nootka (Wakash 
and Kwakiutl group), Bella Coola (neighbours); (2) Salish tribes, of the 
Southern coast. Research into the distribution of potlatch should be carried 
as far south as California. From other points of view it should be noted 
that the institution is spread through the Penutia and Hoka groups; see 
for example Powers, 'Tribes of California' in Contributions to North American 
Ethnology, III, 153 (Pomo), p. 238 (Wintun), pp. 303, 311 (Maidu); cf. 
pp. 247, 325, 332-3, for other tribes, and general observations, p. 411. 

Also the institutions and arts we describe here in a few words are in 
fact of very great complexity, and reveal many curious features no less in 
the absence of traits than in their occurrence. E.g. pottery is unknown as 
in the South Pacific. 

1°* There is much sound documentation on these tribes, many philo- 
logical observations, and texts in the original and translations. See summary 
in Foi Juree, pp. 21, 171, 215. Main additions are as follows: F. Boas and 
G. Hunt, in Eth. Kwa.; Boas, Tsim. Myth., 1916, pub. 1923. These sources, 
however, have a disadvantage. The older ones are scarce, and the newer 
in spite of their depth of detail are not specific from our point of view. Boas 
and his collaborators in the Jesup Expedition were interested in material 
culture, language and mythology. Even the oldest works of professional 
ethnologists (Krause and Jacobsen) or the more recent works of Sapir, 
Hill Tout, etc., have the same bias. Legal, economic and demographic 
analysis remain incomplete. Social morphology has been begun by the 
various censuses of Alaska and British Columbia. M. Barbeau promises a 
complete monograph on the Tsimshian. For many points on law and eco- 
nomics, see old documents, those of Russian travellers, Krause (Tlinkit 
Indianer), Dawson mainly in the Bulletin of the Geological Survey of Canada and 
the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada; Swan (Nootka), 'Indians of 
Cape Flattery' in Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, 1870; Mayne, Four 
Years in British Columbia, 1862 — these are still the best accounts and their 
dates make them authoritative. 

There is a diflficulty in the nomenclature of the tribes. The Kwakiutl 
are one tribe but give their name to several federated tribes, the whole 
forming a nation of this name. Unless otherwise stated we mean by Kwa- 
kiutl the real Kwakiutl tribe. The word itself means 'rich' and is itself 
an indication of the importance of the economic facts we shall describe. 

i"' See Emmons, 'The Chilkat Blanket' in Memoires of the A.M.N.H., 
Vol. III. 

1"* See Rivet, in Meillet and Cohen, Langues du Monde, pp. 616 ff. 
Sapir, in 'Na-Dene Languages', American Anthropologist, 19 15, reduced 
Tlingit and Haida to branches of the Athabascan group. 

1*" On these see Foi Juree, pp. 300-5. For Melanesia see examples in 
Codrington, Melanesian Languages, pp. 106 AT.; Rivers, H.M.S., Vol. I, 
pp. 70 ff, 

1"* This word is to be read in both its real and figurative meanings. 
Just as the Vedic vqjapeya ritual includes the rite of climbing a ladder, 


Melanesian ritual consists in mounting the young chief on a platform. The 
North-West Coast Snahnaimuq and Shushwap have a scaffolding from 
which the chief distributes his potlatch; Boas, 5th Report, p. 39; gth Report, 
p. 459. The other tribes only have a platform on which chiefs and 
functionaries sit. 

109 Which is how the old authors, Mayne, Dawson, Krause, etc., 
describe it. See Krause, Tlinkit Indianer, pp. 187 ff., for a collection of old 

"•* If the hypothesis of linguists is correct and the Tlingit and Haida 
are simply Athabascans who have adopted the civilization of the North- 
West (Boas himself is inclined to agree) the 'worn' character of Tlingit and 
Haida potlatch would be explained. Maybe the violence of North-West 
American potlatch is accountable by the fact that this civilization is at 
the point of contact of two groups of families that both had the institution : 
one from the south of California, the other from Asia. 

^'^^ Foi Jurie, pp. 247 ff. 

"* On the potlatch Boas has written nothing better than this extract 
from the 12th Report, 1898, pp. 681-2. 

'The economic system of the Indians of British Columbia is largely 
based on credit, just as much as that of civilized communities. In all his 
undertakings, the Indian relies on the help of his friends. He promises to 
pay them for this help at a later date. If the help furnished consists in 
valuables, which are measured by the Indians by blankets as we measure 
them by money, he promises to pay the amount so loaned with interest. 
The Indian has no system of writing, and therefore, in order to give security 
to the transaction, it is performed publicly. The contracting of debts, on 
the one hand, and the paying of debts, on the other, is the potlatch. This 
economic system has developed to such an extent that the capital possessed 
by all the individuals of the tribe combined exceeds many times the actual 
amount of cash that exists ; that is to say, the conditions are quite analogous 
to those prevailing in our community : if we want to call in all our outstand- 
ing debts, it is found that there is not by any means money enough in 
existence to pay them, and the result of an attempt of all the creditors to 
call in their loans results in disastrous panic, from which it takes the 
community a long time to recover. 

'It must be clearly understood that an Indian who invites all his friends 
and neighbours to a great potlatch, and apparently squanders all the 
accumulated results of long years of labour, has two things in his mind 
which we cannot but acknowledge as wise and worthy of praise. His first 
object is to pay his debts. This is done publicly and with much ceremony, 
as a matter of record. His second object is to invest the fruits of his labours 
so that the greatest benefit will accrue from them for himself as well as for 
his children. The recipients of gifts at this festival receive these as loans, 
which they utilize in their present undertakings, but after the lapse of 
several years they must repay them with interest to the giver or to his heirs. 
Thus the potlatch comes to be considered by the Indians as a means of 
insuring the well-being of their children if they should be left orphans while 
still young.' 


By substituting for Boas's terms words like 'gifts made and returned' 
(which Boas does use eventually) one sees clearly the function of credit in 
the potlatch. 

On the notion of honour, see Boas, yth Report, p. 57. 

"' Tlingit, p. 421. 

1** It has gone unnoticed that the notion of credit is not only as old 
but also as simple — or if one prefers as complex — as the notion of direct 

"' 'Etude sur les Contrats de I'Epoque de la Premiere Dynastie Baby- 
lonienne' in Nouvelle Revue de VHistoire du Droit, 19 10, p. 177. 

^^* Foi JurSe, p. 207. 

^'' Distribution of one's entire property, Kwakiutl, Sec. Sac, p. 469. 
At initiation of a novice, ibid., p. 551. Koskimo, Shushwap, redistribution, 
yth Report, p. 91. Tlingit, p. 442: 'He has spent so much money to let the 
people see them (his nephews)'. Redistribution of everything won at 
gambling, Tlingit T. and M., p. 139. 

"* On the war of property, see song of Maa, Sec. Soc, pp. 507, 602. 
'We fight with property.' The themes of opposition, the war of wealth and 
real war are found in speeches made at the same potlatch in 1895 at Port 
Rupert. See Boas and Hunt, in Kwa. T., I, pp. 482, 485; cf. Sec. Soc, 
pp. 668-73. 

"' See specially the myth of Haiyas [Haida Texts, VI, no. 83) who loses 
face at gambling and dies of it. His sisters and nephews mourn and give a 
potlatch of vengeance which resuscitates him. 

"0 This is the place to study gambling which even with us is not con- 
sidered contractual but rather as comprised of situations in which honour 
is engaged and where property is surrendered although it is not absolutely 
necessary to do so. 

Gambling is a form of potlatch and a part of the gift system. It has a 
wide distribution in North-West America. It is known to the Kwakiutl 
{Eth. Kwa., p. 1394, ebayu: dice lepa, p. 1435, cf. lep, p. 1448; second potlatch, 
dance; cf. p. 1423, maqwacte) but seems not to play a role comparable with 
that among the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian. The latter are inveterate 
gamblers. See description of tip-cat among the Haida: Haida, pp. 58 ff., 
141 ff. for illustration and vocabulary; the same ganie among the Tlingit: 
Tlingit, p. 443. The Tlingit naq, the winning piece, is the same as the 
Haida djil. 

Histories have many legends of gambling and stories of chiefs who have 
lost everything by it. A Tsimshian chief loses even his children {Tsim. 
Myth., p. 207). A Haida legend recounts the story of a gambling game 
between Tsimshian and Haida; see Haida T. and M., pp. 843, 847. Etiquette 
demands that the winner allows freedom to the loser, his wife and children ; 
Tlingit T. and M., p. 137. Note the link with some Asiatic legends. There 
are undoubted Asiatic influences here. On the distribution of Asiatic games 
of chance in America see E. B. Tylor's fine 'On American Lot-Games, as 
Evidence of Asiatic Intercourse' in Festschrift to Bastian, 1896, pp. 55 ff. 

^** Davy describes the themes of defiance and rivalry; we add that of 
the wager. See, e.g. Boas, Indianische Sagen, pp. 203-6. Cf. p. 363 for types 


of wager. In our days the wager is a survival, and although it engages only 
honour and credit, it is still a means of the circulation of wealth. 

1^- On the destructive potlatch seeFoiJuree, p. 224. We add the following 
comments. To give is to destroy (cf Sec. Soc, p. 334). Some rites of giving 
imply destruction — the rite of reimbursing the dowry, or, as Boas says, the 
marriage debt, includes the rite of 'sinking the canoe' (ibid., pp. 518, 520). 
Visits to Haida and Tsimshian potlatches entail destruction of the visitors' 
canoes, then on departure the hosts hand over specially fine canoes of their 
own {Tsim. Myth., p. 338). 

Destruction seems to be a superior form of expenditure. It is called 
'killing property' among the Tsimshian and Tlingit (ibid., p. 334; Tlingit, 
p. 442). The same name is given also to the distribution of blankets: 'So 
my blankets were lost to see him'; ibid., p. 442. 

There are two other motifs in destruction at potlatch: first the theme 
of war: the potlatch is a war and has the name of 'war dance' among the 
Tlingit (ibid., p. 458, cf. p. 436). As in war, masks, names and privileges 
of the slain owner may be seized, so in the war of property, property is 
'slain' — either one's own so that others may not get it, or that of others by 
means of giving them goods which they will be obliged, and possibly unable, 
to repay. The other motif is that of sacrifice. If property can be 'killed' this 
means it must be 'alive'. A herald says: 'Let our property remain alive 
(under the attacks) of the reckless chief, let our copper remain unbroken' ; 
Eth. Kwa., p. 1285. Perhaps the meanings of the word yaq, to lie dead, to 
distribute a potlatch, can be thus explained {Kwa. T., I, 59, and Eth. Kwa., 

As in normal sacrifice the things destroyed are transmitted to the clan 
ancestors. This is developed among the Tlingit {Tlingit, pp. 443, 462) 
whose ancestors not only are present at the potlatch but profit from presents 
given to their living namesakes. Destruction by fire is characteristic. For 
the Tlingit see interesting myth, Tlingit T. and M., p. 82. Haida, sacrifice 
by fire, Haida T. and M., pp. 28, 31, 91. The theme is less evident among 
the Kwakiutl for whom, nevertheless, there is a great divinity called 
'Sitting-on-Fire' and to whom sacrifice is made, among other things, of the 
clothing of sick children to pay him: Eth. Kwa., pp. 705-6. 

1" Sec. Soc, p. 353. 

1^* It seems that even the words 'exchange' and 'sale' are lacking in the 
Kwakiutl language. In Boas' glossaries I found the word sale only with 
reference to the sale of a copper; but the bidding entailed is nothing less 
than a sale — a kind of generosity match. Exchange I found under the word 
Vay, but in the text, Kwa. T., I, p. 77, it is lised only with reference to a 
change of name. 

^'^^ See the expression 'greedy for food', Eth. Kwa., p. 1462; 'desirous to 
get wealth quickly', ibid., p. 1394; note the imprecation against 'small 
chiefs' — 'the little ones who deliberate; the little hard-struggling ones, the 
little ones whom you have vanquished, who promise to give away canoes, 
the little ones to whom property is given . . . the little ones who work 
secretly for property . . . the little traitors . . .' (Property translates maneq, 
return of a favour, p. 1403). Ibid., p. 1287, for another speech where it is 


said of a chief who has given a potlatch, and of his people who receive 
but do not give away: 'It is only said he satisfied their hunger. It is only 
said he made them vomit. ... It is just said he put them across his back'; 
ibid., p. 1293. 

One need not consider this as being bad economics, or that it is simply 
a kind of laziness based on community in family life. The Tsimshian 
condemn avarice and tell of their hero Crow (the creator) how he was sent 
away by his father because he was greedy; Tsim. Myth., p. 260. 

^^* 'Injuria', Melanges Appleton; 'Magie et Droit Individuel', A.S., X, 28. 

^*' One pays for the honour of dancing, among the Tlingit {Tlingit 
T. and M., p. 141). There is payment to a chief who composes a dance. 
Among the Tsimshian Boas says that everything is done on account of 
honour, and the wealth and display of vanity is outstanding; §th Report, 
p. 19. Duncan, in Mayne, Four Years in British Columbia, p. 265, says: 'for 
the sheer vanity of it'. Much ritual — not only that of climbing — refers to 
this, e.g. that of 'lifting the coppers' among the Kwakiutl {Kwa. T., I, 
p. 499); 'lifting the spear' {Tlingit T. and M., p. 117); 'lifting the potlatch 
pole', the house-beam and the greasy pole. It should not be forgotten that 
the purpose of the potlatch is to see which is the 'highest' family (cf. 
comments of chief Katishan on the myth of Crow, Tlingit T. and M., 
p. 119). 

^** Tregear, M.C.D., under mana. Here one might study the notion of 
wealth. From one point of view the rich man is one who has mana in 
Polynesia, auctoritas in Rome and who, in North-West America, is 'large' 
— walas {Eth. Kwa., p. 1396). All that is required is to show the connection 
between the notion of wealth, that of authority — the right to control those 
to whom one gives — and the potlatch; and it is clear enough. E.g. among 
the Kwakiutl one of the most important clans is the Walasaka (which is 
the name of a family, a dance and a fraternity). The name means 'the great 
ones who come from above', who distribute potlatch: walasila means not 
only wealth but also 'distribution of blankets on the occasion of the sale 
of a copper'. Another metaphor states that a man is made 'heavy' by a 
potlatch given. Sec. Soc, pp. 558-9. The chief is said to 'swallow the tribes' 
to which he distributes his wealth; he 'vomits property', etc. 

129^ TUngit song says of the Crow Phratry: 'You are the ones that 
made the Wolf Phratry valuable' {Tlingit T. and M., p. 398). In the two 
tribes the principle is clear that the respect and honour one should give 
ought to be in the form of gifts. Tlingit, p. 45 1 . 

^^^ The etiquette concerning the unsolicited gift, to be received with 
dignity, is well marked in these tribes. There are instructive Tsimshian, 
Kwakiutl and Haida facts: at feasts, chiefs and nobles eat little while 
vassals and commoners gorge themselves: Kwakiutl, pp. 427, 430. Dangers 
in eating much, Tsim. Myth., pp. 59, 149, 153; singing at the feast, Kwakiutl, 
pp. 430, 437. The conch shell is blown so it will be known they are not 
starving, Kwa. T., I, p. 486. The noble never solicits; the shaman never 
asks for payment, his 'spirit' protects him; Eth. Kwa., pp. 731, 742; Haida 
T. and M., pp. 238-9. Among the Kwakiutl, however, there is a dance of 


"* Tlingit and Haida potlatch has this principle well developed : 
Tlingit, pp. 443, 462. Note discourse in Tlingit T. and M., p. 373. The 
spirits smoke along with the guests. Cf. p. 385: 'Here for you ... we are 
dancing not we it is we are dancing. Long ago died our uncles it is who are 
dancing here.' The guests are spirits, luck-bearers, gona' qadet (ibid., p. 119). 
We have here a confusion of the two things, sacrifice and gift, comparable 
with the cases we have so far cited (except perhaps the effect upon nature). 
To give to the living is to give to the dead. A notable Tlingit tale {Tlingit 
T. and M., p. 227) states that a resuscitated individual knows if a potlatch 
is given for him; and the theme that spirits reproach the living for not 
giving a potlatch is common. The Kwakiutl have the same ideas; see e.g. a 
speech in Eth. Kwa., p. 788. The living with the Tsimshian represent the 
dead; Tate writes to Boas: Tn some of these cases offerings appear rather 
in the form of presents given at a feast': Tsim. Myth., p. 452. Page 846 for 
comparison with Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian. 

"' Well described in Krause, Tlinkit Indianer, p. 240. 

^^^ Foi Jurie, pp. 171 ff., 251 ff. Tsimshian and Haida forms are similar 
although the clan is more in evidence in the former. 

"* There is no need to restate Davy's demonstration of the relationship 
between the potlatch and political status, particularly that of the son-in-law 
and son. Nor is it necessary to note the solidarity value of the feasts and 
exchanges. E.g. the exchange of canoes by two spirits means that they have 
'but one heart', the one being the father, the other the son-in-law; Sec. Soc, 
p. 387. In Kwa. T., I, p. 274, is added: 'It was as if they had exchanged 
names.' Also ibid., p. 23: in a Nimkish mythical feast (another Kwakiutl 
tribe) the aim of the marriage feast is to instal the girl in the village where 
she will eat for the first time. 

^^* The funeral potlatch has been seen and studied for the Haida and the 
Tlingit ; with the Tsimshian it is connected with the end of mourning, at 
an erection of the totem pole and with cremation; Tsim. Myth., pp. 534 ff. 
Boas makes no mention of funeral potlatch for the Kwakiutl although it is 
referred to in a myth: Kwa. T., I, p. 407. 

"* Potlatch to retain one's right to an emblem: Haida, p. 107. See story 
of Legek, Tsim. Myth., p. 386. Legek is the name of the principal Tsimshian 
chief. Also ibid., p. 364 — stories of chief Nesbalas, another great Tsimshian, 
and how he made fun of chief Haimas. One of the most important Kwa- 
kiutl chiefly titles, Lewikilaq, is Da bend {Kwa. T., I, p. 19; cf. dabendgala, 
Eth. Kwa., p. 1406) who before the potlatch has a name meaning 'unable 
to hold firm' and after the potlatch takes this name which means 'able to 
hold firm'. 

*'' A Kwakiutl chief says: 'This is my pride, the names of the root of 
my family, for all my ancestral chiefs gave away property' {Eth. Kwa., 
p. 887, cf. p. 843). 

18 8 'Therefore I am covered in property. Therefore I am rich. Therefore 
I am a counter of property', Eth. Kwa., p. 1280. 

*** To buy a copper is to put it 'beneath the name of the buyer: 
Sec. Soc, p. 345. Another metaphor states that the name of the giver of the 
potlatch takes on weight by giving it; ibid. Other expressions denote the 


superiority of the giver over the donee. There is the notion that the latter 
is a sort of slave until he ransoms himself. The Haida say 'the name is bad' 
— Haida, p. 70; the Tlingit say that one puts gifts 'on the backs' of the 
people who receive them — Tlingit, p. 428. The Haida have two suggestive 
phrases: to make one's needle 'go' or 'run quickly', meaning apparently 
to fight an inferior; Haida, p. 162. 

^*'' See story of Haimas, how he loses his liberty, privileges, masks, his 
auxiliary spirits, family and property; Tsim. Myth., pp. 361-2. 

^*^ Eth. Kwa., p. 805; Hunt, Boas's Kwakiutl informant, writes: 'I do 
not know why the chief . . . Maxuyalidze (i.e. potlatch-giver) never gave 
a feast. That is all about this. He is called q'elsem (that is "rotten face"), 
one who gives no feast.' 

^** In fact the potlatch is a dangerous thing if one receives from it or 
if one does not give one. People attending a mythical potlatch died of it 
{Haida Texts, p. 626; cf. p. 667, same myth from the Tsimshian). Com- 
parisons in Boas, Indianische Sagen, p. 356. It is dangerous to participate in 
the food of one who gives a potlatch or to take part in a potlatch of the 
spirits in the world below. See a Kwakiutl (Awikenoq) legend, ibid., p. 329. 
See also the fire myth of Crow who draws food from his flesh: Ctatloq, 
ibid., p. 76; Nootka, ibid., p. 106. Cf. Tsim. Myth., pp. 694-5. 

"^ Potlatch is a game and a trial; e.g. a trial consists in not hiccuping 
during the feast — rather die than that, they say. Kwakiutl, p. 428. See a 
form of challenge : 'Let us try to have (our dishes) emptied by our guests' 
{Eth. Kwa., p. 991). There is no clear distinction between the meanings 
'to give food', 'to return food' and 'to take vengeance' (ibid., glossary under 
yenesa Sind yenka). 

^** We noted above the equivalence of potlatch and war. A knife on 
the end of a stick is a symbol of the Kwakiutl potlatch, Kwa. T, 1, p. 483. 
With the Tlingit it is a raised spear (Tlingit T. and M., p. 1 17). See Tlingit 
potlatch compensation rites : war of the people of Kloo against the Tsim- 
shian, ibid., pp. 432-3; dances of enslavement; and a potlatch without 
dancing, for a case of murder. 

^** Ritual faults of the Kwakiutl: see Sec. Soc, pp. 433, 507. Expiation 
consists of giving a potlatch or at least a gift. 

This is a most important point in all these societies. Distribution of 
wealth has the role of payment of a fine or propitiation of spirits and 
re-establishment of solidarity between spirits and men. P^re Lambert, 
Mccurs des Sauvages Neo-Caledoniens, p. 66, noted with the Kanak the right 
of uterine relatives to indemnity if one of them loses blood in his father's 
family. Among the Tsimshian it is exactly the same: Duncan, in Mayne, 
Four Years in British Columbia, p. 264, cf. p. 296. The Maori muru is probably 

Potlatch for the ransom of captives is to be interpreted in the same way. 
It is not only to regain its captured members but also to re-establish the 
'name' that the family gives a potlatch. See story of Dzebasa, Tsim. Myth., 
p. 388. The Tlingit have the same : Krause, Tlinkit Indianer, p. 245 ; Porter, 
Jith Census, p. 54; Tlingit, p. 449. 

Kwakiutl potlatches to expiate ritual faults are common. Note potlatch 


of expiation for parents of twins who are going to work, Eth. Kwa., p. 691. 
A potlatch is due to your father-in-law to regain a wife who has left you; 
see glossary, ibid., p. 1423. If a chief wants an occasion to give a potlatch 
he may send his wife back to her father as a pretext; 3th Report, p. 42. 

^*^ A long list of these obligations, at feasts, after fishing, collecting 
fruits, hunting or opening preserved food is given in Eth. Kwa., pp. 757 ff. 
Cf. p. 607 for etiquette. 

^*' See Tsim. Myth., pp. 439, 512; cf. p. 534 for payment of services. 
Kwakiutl example: payment to keeper of blankets. Sec. Soc, pp. 614, 629. 

14 8 Payments to relatives: Tsim. Myth., p. 534; cf. Foi Jurie. p. 196, 
for opposed systems among Tlingit and Haida, and division of potlatch by 

1** A Masset Haida myth {Haida Texts, X, pt. 2, no. 43) recounts how 
an old chief does not give enough potlatches ; others leave off inviting him, 
he dies of it, his nephews make an image of him and give ten feasts in 
his name, and he is bom again. In another myth, ibid., p. 722, a spirit 
addresses a chief: 'Thy property is too much. Potlatch very soon.' He builds 
a house and pays the builders. In another myth, ibid., p. 723, a chief says: 
'I will not keep a part of the property for myself.' And later: 'I will potlatch 
ten times.' 

^^o On the manner in which the clans regularly confront each other 
see Sec. Soc, p. 343 and Tsim. Myth., p. 497. In phratry societies this 
naturally happens; cf. Haida, p. 162 ; Tlingit, p. 424. The principle is shown 
well in the myth of Crow, Tlingit T. and M., p. 1 15. 

^*^ The Tlingit have a remarkable expression : guests are said to 'float', 
their canoes 'wander about on the sea', the totem pole they bring is 'adrift' ; 
and it is the invitation to the potlatch that halts them {Tlingit T. and M., 
pp. 394-5). One of the common titles of Kwakiutl chiefs is 'Towards whom 
one paddles', 'The Place where one comes'; e.g. Eth. Kwa., p. 187. 

^^* The offence of neglecting someone means that the relatives abstain 
from attending the potlatch. In a Tsimshian myth the spirits do not come 
if the Great Spirit is not invited; Tsim. Myth., p. 277. A story tells how the 
great chief Nesbalas was not invited and the other Tsimshian chiefs stayed 
away, ibid., p. 357. 

Note the frequent assertion — common also in European and Asiatic 
folklore — of the danger in not inviting orphans, foundlings and poor 
relatives, e.g. Indianische Sagen, pp. 301, 303; Tsim. Myth., pp. 292, 295, 
where a beggar is the totem or totemic god. Cf. Boas, ibid., pp. 784 ff. 

Of course one does not invite those who do not give feasts or who have 
no feast names: Eth. Kwa., p. 707. Those who do not return a potlatch, 
ibid., glossary under waya and wayapo lela. 

The offence also has political consequences, e.g. a Tlingit potlatch 
with Athabascans from the East: Tlingit, p. 435; cf. Tlingit T. and M., 
p. 117. 

^" Tsim. Myth., pp. 170-1. 

^'* Actually Boas puts this sentence from Tate's text in a note but the 
moral of the myth should not be separated from the myth itself. 

"* Cf, Tsimshian myth of Negunaks, ibid., p. 287 and notes p. 846. 


"•E.g. the invitation to the blackcurrant feast; the herald says: *We 
come back to call you, the only one (who has not come yet)'; Eth. Kwa., 

P- 752. 

"' Sec. Soc, p. 543. 

188 With the Tlingit, guests who have waited two years before coming 
to a potlatch to which they had been invited are 'women'. Tlingit T. and 
M., p. 119. 

"^ Sec. Soc, p. 345. With the Kwakiutl one is obliged to attend the 
whale feast although the oil may make one sick: Eth. Kwa., p. 1046; cf. 
p. 1048, 'try to eat everything'. 

•*" Thus sometimes guests are invited in fear, for should they reject the 
invitation they would be showing themselves superior. A Kwakiutl chief 
tells a Koskimo chief (same nation) : 'Do not refuse my friendly invitation 
as I will be ashamed, do not reject my wishes. ... I am not one of those 
that pretend, that give only to those that will buy (i.e. will give). There, my 
friend.' Sec. Soc, p. 546. 

1" Ibid., p. 355. 

"* See Eth. Kwa., p. 774 for another description of the oil and salal 
berry feast ; it is Hunt's and appears to be very good ; it seems also that this 
ritual is employed when one is giving out neither invitations nor gifts. A 
rite of the same kind to spite a rival has songs and drumming (ibid., p. 770) 
as with the Eskimo. 

^*^ A Haida phrase is: 'You do the same. Show me some good food.' 
Haida Texts, X, 685; Kwakiutl, Eth. Kwa., pp. 738, 767; p. 770 story of 

^•* Songs of dissatisfaction, Tlingit T. and M., p. 396, nos. 26, 29. 

^** Tsimshian chiefs usually send a messenger to examine presents 
brought by potlatch guests: Tsim. Myth., p. 184, cf. pp. 430, 434. According 
to a capitulary of the year 803 there was a similar functionary at the court 
of Charlemagne. 

"' The Tlingit myth of Crow tells how he is absent from a feast because 
the opposite phratry is noisy and has overstepped the centre line which, 
in the dancing house, should separate them. Crow fears they are invincible ; 
Tlingit T. and M., p. 118. The inequality resulting from acceptance is well 
shown in Kwakiutl discourses: Sec. Soc, pp. 355, 667, 669. 

"' E.g. Tlingit, pp. 440-1. 

19 8 With the Tlingit a ritual enables a host to force upon his guest 
acceptance of his gift. The dissatisfied guest makes a show of departing. 
The host offers him double and mentions the name of a dead relative; 
Tlingit, p. 442. This is probably connected with the quality which the 
parties have of representing their ancestral spirits. 

"' Eth. Kwa., p. 1281 : 'The chiefs of the tribes never return (feasts) . . . 
they disgrace themselves, and you rise as head chief over those who have 
disgraced themselves.' 

^""^ See speech on the potlatch of the great chief Legek, Tsim. Myth., 
p. 386. The Haida are told: 'You shall be the last one among the 
chiefs, for you are not able to throw away coppers like the high chief has 


"^ The ideal is to give a potlatch which is not returned. Cf. 'You wish 
to give away property that is not to be returned'; Eth. Kwa., p. 1282. One 
who has given a potlatch is compared to a tree or a mountain: 'I am the 
only great tree, I the chief. You here are right under me. . . . You surround 
me hke a fence. ... I am the first to give you property' — ibid., p. 1290. 
'Raise the unattainable potlatch-pole, for this is the only thick tree, the 
only thick root.' The Haida use a spear metaphor. Those who accept 'live 
on the chief's spear' — Haida Texts, p. 486. 

^'* Note the story of an insult for a bad potlatch, Tsim. Myth., p. 314. 
The Tsimshian never forget the two coppers owing to them by the 
Wutsenaluk, ibid., p. 364. 

^'* The name remains 'broken' so long as a copper of equivalent value 
to that of the challenge is not broken; Sec. Soc, p. 543. 

^'* When a man thus discredited borrows the means to make a necessary 
redistribution, he is said to 'pledge his name' or to 'sell a slave'; Sec. Soc, 
p. 341; cf. Eth. Kwa., p. 1451; p. 1424 under kelgelgend ; cf p. 1420. 

^'* Peace ritual of the Haida, Tsimshian and Tlingit consists of presta- 
tions with immediate counter-prestations — exchanges of decorated coppers 
and hostages — women and slaves. E.g. in the Tsimshian war against the 
Haida {Haida T. and M., p. 395) : 'They had women on each side marry 
the opposites, because they feared they would be angry again. Now there 
was peace.' In a Haida-Tlingit war there is a compensation potlatch, 

p. 396. 

*" Tsim. Myth., pp. 511-12. 

^" {Kwakiutl) : a property distribution in both directions. Boas, Sec. Soc, 
p. 418; repayment the following year of fines for ritual faults, p. 596; 
usurious repayment of bridewealth, ibid., pp. 365-6, 518-20, 563. 

^^* The Tsimshian language distinguishes between the yaok, the great 
inter-tribal potlatch {Tsim. Myth., p. 537; cf. pp. 511, 968; wrongly trans- 
lated as 'potlatch') and the others. Haida distinguishes between walgal and 
sitka {Haida, pp. 35, 68, 178-9 — funerary and other potlatches). The 
common Kwakiutl and Chinook word pola (to seize) seems to mean not 
potlatch so much as the feast or its effect {Kwa. T., I, p. 21 1). Polos means 
the man who gives a feast {Kwa. T., H, pp. 43, 79) and also the place 
where one is seized (legend of the title of one of the Dzawadaenoxu chiefs). 
Cf. Eth. Kwa., p. 770. The commonest word in Kwakiutl is /)'«, to flatten 
(a rival's name) — Eth. Kwa., glossary. The inter-tribal potlatches seem to 
have a special name, maxwa {Kwa. T, I, p. 451); somewhat improbably 
Boas derives from the root ma two other words, mawil, initiation room, and 
the name for the ore {Eth. Kwa. glossary). In fact Kwakiutl has a number 
of technical terms for all kinds of potlatch, payments and repayments (or 
rather gifts and counter-gifts), on marriages, to shamans, for advances, 
unpaid interest, etc.; e.g. men{a), pick up, Eth. Kwa., p. 218, a small potlatch 
in which a girl's clothing is thrown to the people for them to pick up: 
payol, to give a copper; there. is a different term for giving a canoe; ibid., 
p. 1448. The terms are numerous, unstable and overlapping. 

^'* See Barbeau, 'Le Potlatch', Bulletin de la Sociiti Geographique de Qjiebec, 
191 1, p. 278. 


^"* In Tsimshian the distinction between property and possessions is 
very clear. In Tsim. Myth., Boas says: 'While the possession of what is 
called rich food was essential for maintaining the dignity of the family, 
the provisions themselves were not counted as constituting wealth. Wealth 
is obtained by selling provisions for other kinds of goods, which, after they 
have been accumulated, are distributed in the potlatch.' — p. 435. 

Kwakiutl distinguish in the same way between simple provisions and 
property- wealth. Property and wealth are equivalent. Property has two 
terms,: ydq or ydq; Eth. Kwa., glossary, p. 1393 {ci. ydqu, to distribute). 
This word has two derivatives, yeqala, property, and yaxulu, talismans, 
paraphernalia; cf. words derived from^a, ibid., p. 1406. The other word 
is dadekas, cf. Kwa. T., I, p. 519, cf. p. 433; in Newettee dialect, daoma, 
dedemala [Eth. Kwa., glossary). The root of this word is da. The meaning 
of this root is curiously like that of the identical Indo-European radical 
meaning to receive, take, accept in hand, handle, etc. Of the derived 
words one means 'to take a piece of one's enemy's clothing to bewitch 
him', and the other 'to take in one's hand', 'to put in the house' (see later 
on meanings of manus and familia), with reference to blankets given in 
advance for the purchase of coppers, to be returned with interest ; another 
word means 'to put blankets on one's adversary's heap'. An even stranger 
derivative is dadeka, 'to be jealous of each other' {Kwa. T., I, p. 133). 
Clearly the original meaning must be : the thing which one takes and which 
makes one jealous ; cf. dadego, to fight — doubtless to fight with property. 

Other words have the same meanings, but more precisely, e.g. mamekas, 
property in the house, Kwa. T., I, p. 169. 

^^^ Eth. Kwa., pp. 706 ff. There is hardly anything morally and materially 
valuable (we purposely do not say 'useful') which is not subject to beliefs 
of this kind. 'Moral' things are goods and property which are the object 
of gifts and exchanges. E.g. just as in more primitive civilisations, such as 
the Australian, so with the Tlingit; after the potlatch one 'leaves' a dance 
in exchange to those who gave the potlatch — Tlingit, p. 442. The Tiingit 
property which is most inviolable and gives rise to the greatest jealousy is 
the name and the totemic emblem, ibid., p. 416; these it is which make 
one happy and rich. 

Totemic emblems, feasts and potlatches, names won in potlatches, 
presents which others must return to you as a result of potlatches given, 
these all follow. E.g. Kwakiutl : 'And now my feast goes to him' (meaning 
son-in-law) — Sec. Soc, p. 356. 

With the Tsimshian decorated dance and parade masks and hats are 
called 'a certain amount of property following the amount given at a 
potlatch' (following gifts made by maternal aunts of the chief to the 'women 
of the tribe'): Tsim. Myth., p. 541. 

Inversely, as with the Kwakiutl, things are conceived in moral terms, 
especially precious objects like essential talismans, the 'giver of death' 
{lalayu), the 'water of life' — these are apparently quartz crystals — blankets, 
etc. In a curious Kwakiutl saying they are identified with the grandfather: 
naturally enough, since they are given to the son-in-law only to be trans- 
mitted later to the grandson: Sec. Soc, p. 507. 


^"The myth of Djilqons in Haida, pp. 92, 95, 171. The Masset version 
appears in Haida Texts, pp. 94, 98 ; and the Skidegate in Haida T. and M., 
p. 458. His name is included in some Haida family names of the Eagle 
phratry; see Haida, pp. 282-3. The name of the goddess of Fortune is Skil 
{Haida Texts, pp. 306, 665). Cf. the bird Skil, Skirl {Haida, p. 120). Skiltagos 
means copper-property and the fabulous tale of the way coppers are found 
is connected with this name, cf. p. 146, Fig. 4. A carved pole represents 
Djilqada, his copper, pole and emblems; p. 125. 

The real title of Skil (ibid., p. 92) is 'property making a noise'. She 
has four supplementary names, ibid., p. 95. She has a son called 'Sides of 
Stone' (in reality copper, ibid., pp. no, 112). Whoever meets her and her 
children is lucky in gambling. She has a magic plant and to eat it brings 
wealth; likewise one becomes rich by touching her blanket. One of her 
names is 'Property remaining in the House'. Many people have names 
which include hers: 'Attendant on Skil', 'The Way to Skil'. See Haida 
genealogies E 13, E 14; and in the Crow Phratry, R 14, 15, 16. She seems 
to be the antithesis of the 'Plague Woman' {Haida T. and M., p. 299). 

*** The whole myth is given in Tlingit T. and M., pp. 173, 292, 368; 
cf. Tlingit, p. 460. At Sitka Skil is doubtless Lenaxxidek. This is a woman 
who has a child ; the child is heard suckling, and is followed. If it scratches 
then pieces from the scars formed can make others happy. 

i**The Tsimshian myth is incomplete: Tsim. Myth., pp. 154, 192. Cf 
Boas's notes, ibid., pp. 746, 760. Although Boas did not notice the identity 
it is clear. The Tsimshian goddess wears a 'garment of wealth'. 

18* Maybe the myth of Qominoqa, the 'rich woman', has the same origin. 
She seems to be the object of a cult reserved for certain Kwakiutl clans ; 
e.g. Eth. Kwa., p. 862. AQoexsotenoq hero has the title 'Body of Stone' and 
becomes 'Property on the Body'; Kwa. T. I, p. 187. 

^** E.g. myth of the Ore Clan : Boas, Handbook of American Languages, 
Vol. I, pp. 554-9- The founder-hero of the clan is himself a member of the 
Ore Clan: 'I am trying to get a magical treasure from you' he says to a 
spirit whom he meets, which has a human shape but yet is an ore — p. 557. 
The spirit recognizes him as a clansman and gives him the copper-tipped 
whale-killing harpoon (omitted from text; ores are killer whales). It gives 
him also its potlatch-name. His name, it says, is 'Place of getting Satiated, 
and your house with a killer whale (painting) on the front will be your 
house; and your dish will be a killer-whale dish; and the death-bringer 
and the water of life and the quartz-edged knife, which is to be your 
butcher-knife (shall be yours).' 

^*' A wonderful box containing a whale, which gave its name to a hero, 
was called 'Wealth from the Shore', Sec. Soc, p. 374. Cf. 'Property drifting 
towards me', ibid., pp. 247, 414. Property 'makes a noise' (see above). The 
title of one of the principal Masset chiefs is 'He whose Property makes a 
noise', Haida Texts, p. 684. Property lives (Lwakinol) : 'May our property 
remain alive by his efforts, may our copper remain unbroken', sing the 
Maamtagila, Eth. Kwa., p. 1285. 

18* Family possessions that circulate among men and their daughters 
and sons-in-law and return to the sons when newly initiated or married 


are usually kept in a box or trunk adorned with emblems, whose design, 
construction and use are characteristic of these civilizations — from the 
Californian Yurok to the tribes of the Behring Straits. Usually the box is 
decorated with figures or eyes of the totems or spirits whose effects it 
contains — decorated blankets, 'death' and 'life' charms, masks, hats, 
crowns and bow. Myths often confuse the spirit with the box and its 
contents; e.g. Tlingit T. and M., p. 173: the gonaqadet is identified with the 
box, the copper, hat and bell rattle. Its transfer at initiation makes the 
recipient a 'supernatural' being — shaman, magician, nobleman, owner of 
dances or seats in a fraternity. See family histories in Eth. Kwa., pp. 965-6, 
cf. p. 1012. 

The box is always mysterious and kept secretly in the house. There may 
be a number of boxes each in turn containing a smaller one. For Haida 
see Haida Texts, p. 395. It contains such spirits as the 'Mouse Woman' 
[Haida T. and M., p. 340), or the Crow that pecks the eyes of an unlawful 
possessor. See Tsim. Myth., pp. 851, 854. The myth of the sun enclosed in 
a floating box is widespread (ibid., pp. 549, 641). These myths are known 
also from the ancient world. 

A common episode of legends of heroes is that of the small box con- 
taining a whale which only the hero is able to lift: Sec. Soc, p. 374 and 
Kwa. T. II, p. 171 ; its food is inexhaustible — ibid., p. 223. The box is alive, 
and floats in the air through its own vitality — Sec. Soc, p. 374. The box 
of Katlian brings wealth — Tlingit, pp. 446, 448. The talismans it contains 
have to be fed. One of them contains a spirit 'too strong to be appropriated', 
whose mask kills the bearer {Tlingit T. and M., p. 341). 

The names of these boxes refer sometimes to their use at a potlatch. A 
large Haida box of fat is the 'mother' {Haida Texts, p. 758) . The red-bot- 
tomed box (the sun) distributes water on to the 'sea of tribes' — the water 
being the blankets which a chief distributes; Sec. Soc, p. 551. 

The mythology of the magic box is characteristic also of Asiatic societies 
of the North Pacific. There is a good comparable example in Pilsudski, 
Material for the Study of the Ainu Languages, Cracow, 19 13, pp. 124-5. The 
box is given by a bear and the hero has taboos to observe ; it is full of gold 
and silver objects, wealth-giving talismans. The design of the box is the 
same here also. 

^8' Family possessions are individually named among the Haida — 
Swanton, Haida, p. 117 ; — houses, doors, dishes, carved spoons, canoes, 
salmon traps. Cf. the expression 'continuous chain of possessions' — ibid., 
p. 15. We have a list of objects named by the Kwakiutl by clans in addition 
to the variable titles of nobles, men and women, and their privileges — 
dances, etc., which are also possessions. The things we call movables and 
which are personified are dishes, the house, dog and canoe; Eth. Kwa., 
pp. 793 ff". Hunt forgot coppers, abalone shells and doors from the list. 
Spoons threaded to a cord on a kind of decorated canoe are called 'anchor- 
lines' of spoons. Sec. Soc, p. 422. Among the Tsimshian, canoes, coppers, 
spoons, stone pots, stone knives and plates of chieftainesses are named: 
Tsim. Myth., p. 506. 

^•' The only domestic animal in these tribes is the dog. It is named 


according to the clan and cannot be sold. 'They are men like us' say the 
Kwakiutl {Eih. Kwa., p. 1260). They 'guard the family' against sorcery 
and attacks of enemies. A myth tells how a Koskimo chief and his dog 
Waned change places and use the same name, ibid., p. 835. Cf. the fantastic 
myth of the four dogs of Lewiqilaqu, Kwa. T. I, pp. 18, 20. 

^•* 'Abalone' is the Chinook word for the large haliotis shells used as 
nose and ear ornaments {Kwakiutl, p. 484; and Haida, p. 146). They are 
also used on decorated blankets, belts and hats, e.g. Eth. Kwa., p. 1069. 
Among the Awekinoq and Lasiqoala (Kwakiutl group) abalone shells are 
set into a shield of strangely European design; 5th Report, p. 43. This kind 
of shield is akin to the copper shield which also has a suggestion of the 
Middle Ages. 

Abalone shells were probably used as a kind of currency in the way 
that coppers are used now. A Ctatloq myth (South Salish) associates the 
two persons K'okois, Copper and Teadjas, Abalone ; their son and daughter 
marry and the grandson takes the 'metal box' of the bear, and appropriates 
his mask and potlatch : Indianische Sagen, p. 84. An Awikenoq myth connects 
shell names, like copper names, with the 'Daughters of the Moon', ibid., 
pp. 218-9. 

Among the Haida these shells — the famous and valuable ones at least 
— have their own names as in Melanesia: Swanton, Haida, p. 146. They 
are also used for naming people or spirits, e.g. index of proper names in 
Tsim. Myth., p. 960. Cf. 'abalone names' by clans in Eth. Kwa., pp. 1261-75 
for the tribes Awikenoq, Naqoatok and Gwasela. This custom was wide- 
spread. The abalone box of the Bella Coola is itself mentioned and described 
in the Awikenoq myth; moreover, it contains the abalone blanket, and 
both are as bright as the sun. The chief whose myth contains the story is 
Legek — Indianische Sagen, pp. 2 1 8 ff. This is the title of the principal 
Tsimshian chief It would appear that the myth has travelled along with 
the thing itself. In the Masset Haida myth, 'Crow the Creator', the sun 
which he gives his wife is an abalone shell: Haida Texts, pp. 227, 313. 
Names of mythical heroes with abalone titles in Kwa. T. I, pp. 50, 222, 
etc. With the Tlingit the shells were identified with sharks' teeth: Tlingit 
T. and M., p. 129 (cf. use of cachalot teeth in Melanesia). 

All these tribes have in addition dentalia necklaces (see Krause, Tlinkit 
Indianer, p. 186). Thus we find here the same kinds of money, with the 
same kinds of belief and the same customs as in Melanesia and the Pacific 
in general. 

These shells were the object of trade by the Russians during their 
occupation of Alaska — trade which extended from the Gulf of California 
to the Behring Straits: see Haida Texts, p. 313. 

^•* Blankets like boxes become the object of legends. Their designs are 
even copied on boxes {Tlinkit Indianer, p. 200). There is always something 
mystical about them: cf Haida 'spirit belts' — torn blankets {Haida, pp. 
165, 174). Some mythical cloaks are 'cloaks of the world' {Indianische Sagen, 
p. 248). Cf. the talking mat in Haida Texts, pp. 430,432. The cult of blankets, 
mats and hide coverings should be compared with the Polynesian cult of 
decorated mats. 


1*^ It is admitted with the Tlingit that everything in the house speaks, 
that spirits talk to the posts and beams of the house, and that the latter 
also talk and that conversations are held between the totemic animals, 
the spirits, men and things of the house ; this is a regular feature of Tlingit 
religion. See Tlingit, pp. 458-9. The Kwakiutl house hears and speaks — 
Etk. Kwa., p. 1279. 

^'* The house is considered as personal property as it was for a long 
time in Germanic law. See the many myths about the 'magic house* built 
in the winking of an eye, usually given by a grandfather {Tsim. Myth., 
pp. 852-3). For Kwakiutl examples see Sec. Soc, pp. 376, 380. 

196 Valuable objects, being at the same time of magical and religious 
value — eagle feathers, often identified with rain, food, quartz and good 
medicines; e.g. Tlingit T. and M., p. 385; Haida Texts, p. 292: walking 
sticks and combs; Tlingit T. and M., p. 385; Haida, p. 38; Kwakiutl, 
p. 455: bracelets, e.g. Lower Frazer tribe, Indianische Sagen, p. 36; Kwakiutl, 
p. 454. All these things, spoons, dishes and coppers have the generic 
Kwakiutl name of logwa which means talisman, supernatural thing (cf. 
our 'Origines de la Notion de la Monnaie' and the preface of our 
Milange d'Histoire des Religions). The notion of logwa is precisely that of 
mana. For our purpose it is the 'virtue' of wealth and food which produces 
wealth and food. A discourse on the logwa calls it 'the great past augmenter 
of property' {Eth. Kwa., p. 1280). A myth tells how a logwa was good at 
acquiring property, how four logwa gathered to it. One of them was called 
'Making Property accumulate': Kwa. T. I, p. 108. In short, wealth begets 
wealth. A saying of the Haida speaks of 'property which enriches' with 
reference to the abalone shells worn by girls at puberty : Haida, p. 48. 

*'* One mask is called 'Obtaining Food'. Cf. : 'and you will be rich in 
food' (Nimkish myth, Kwa. T. I, p. 36). An important Kwakiutl noble has 
the titles 'The Inviter', 'Giver of Food', and 'Giver of Eagle Down'; Sec. 
Soc, p. 415. 

The decorated baskets and boxes (e.g. those used for the berry crop) 
are likewise magical; see e.g. a Haida myth in Haida Texts, p. 404; the 
important myth of Q,als confuses pike, salmon and the thunder-bird and 
a basket of berries seized from the bird (Lower Frazer River, Indianische 
Sagen, p. 34); equivalent Awikenoq myth, ^th Report, p. 28; one basket is 
called 'Never Empty'. 

••' Each dish is named according to the carving on it. With the Kwa- 
kiutl the carvings represent 'animal chiefs'. One is 'The dish which remains 
full' — Boas, Kwakiutl Tribes (Columbia University), p. 264. Those of a 
certain clan are logwa; they have spoken to an ancestor, 'Inviter', and have 
told him to take them: Eth. Kwa., p. 809. Cf the myth of Kaniqilaku, 
Indianische Sagen, p. 198. Cf. Kwa. T. II, p. 205 ; how a plaguing father-in-law 
is given berries to eat from a magic basket. They turn into brambles and 
issue from all parts of his body. 

^**This German expression was used by Krickeberg, It describes the 
use of these shields exactly ; for they are at the same time pieces of money 
and objects of display carried in the potlatch by chiefs or those to whose 
profit the potlatch is given. 


^*' Although it has been widely discussed the copper industry of North- 
West America is not well known. Rivet in his notable work 'Orf^vrerie 
Precolombienne', Journal des Amiricanistes, 1923, left it out intentionally. 
It seems certain that the art was there before the arrival of the Europeans. 
The northern tribes, Tlingit and Tsimshian, sought, worked or received 
the native copper from the Copper River. Cf. Indian authors and Krause, 
Tlinkit Indianer, p. 186. All these tribes speak of a 'great copper mountain': 
Tlingit T. and M., p. 160; Haida, p. 130; Tsim. Myth., p. 299. 

^*"' Copper is alive: its mine and mountains are magical, covered with 
wealth-giving plants: Haida Texts, pp. 681, 692; Haida, p. 146. It has a 
smell; Kwa. T. 1, p. 64. The privilege of working copper is the object of 
an important cycle of Tsimshian legends: myths of Tsanda and Gao, 
Tsim. Myth., p. 306. For list of equivalent themes see ibid., p. 856. Copper 
seems to be personified with the Bella Coola — Indianische Sagen, p. 261. 
Cf. Boas, 'Mythology of the Bella Coola Indians', J. N.P.E., Vol. I, pt. 2, 
p. 71, where the myth of copper is associated with the myth of abalone. 

^"^ Since it is red, copper is identified with the sun: Tlingit T. and M., 
nos. 39, 81 ; with 'fire from the sky', which is the name of a copper, and with 
salmon. This identification is specially clear in the cult of twins among the 
Kwakiutl, Eth. Kwa., pp. 685 ff. The sequence seems to be: springtime, 
arrival of salmon, new sun, red colour, copper. The identity of salmon and 
copper is more characteristic of the northern nations {Tsim. Myth., p. 856). 
E.g. Haida Texts, pp. 689, 691, 692; here the myth is like that of the ring 
of Polycratus; the salmon swallows copper {Haida T. and M., p. 82). The 
Tlingit have the myth of the being called Mouldy-End (the name of a 
salmon) ; see myth of Sitka; chains of copper and salmon {Tlingit T. and M., 
p. 307). A salmon in a box becomes a man; another version, ibid., no. 5. 
See Tsim. Myth., p. 857. A Tsimshian copper is 'Copper going upstream', 
a clear allusion to salmon. 

It would be worth while investigating the relationship between the 
copper and quartz cults — see myth of the quartz mountain, Kwa. T. II, 
p. III. In the same way the jade cult — at least with the Tlingit — could be 
related to the copper cult; a jade salmon speaks {Tlingit T. and M., p. 5); 
a jade stone speaks and gives names, Sitka, ibid., p. 416. And note of course 
the association of the shell cult and copper. 

^"^ The family of Tsanda among the Tsimshian seems to be the founder 
of copper and to have its secrets. Possibly the Kwakiutl myth of the princely 
family of Dzawadaenoqu is of the same sort. It brings together Laqwagila 
the maker of copper, Qomqomgila the rich man and Qpmoqoa the rich 
woman who makes coppers; and links them to the white bird (sun), son 
of the thunder-bird, who smells of copper, turns himself into a woman and 
gives birth to twins who smell of copper {Kwa. T. I, pp. 61-7). 

The Awikenoq myth about ancestors and nobles who have the same 
title 'Maker of Copper' is less interesting. 

^"^ Each copper has a name. Kwakiutl speak of 'great coppers with 
names' — Sec. Soc, pp. 348-50. We know quite a bit about the names of 
the great Kwakiutl coppers. They refer to the cults and beliefs attached to 
them. One is 'Moon' (Nisqa tribe, Eth. Kwa., p. 856), others have the 


name of the spirit they incarnate and which gave them, e.g. the Dzonoqoa, 
ibid., p. 142 1. Others have names of spirits who founded totems: one copper 
is 'Beaver Face', ibid., p. 1427, another, 'Sea Lion', ibid., p. 894. Other 
names allude to the shape, e.g. 'T-shaped Copper', or 'Long Upper Portion', 
ibid., p. 862. Others are called simply 'Great Copper', 'Noisy Copper' (also 
a chief's name). The name of the Maxtoselen copper is 'That of which 
they are ashamed'. 'They are ashamed of their debts' {Kwa. T. I, p. 452; 
'Quarrel Maker' {Eth. Kwa., p. 893). 

Most Tlingit copper names are totemic {Tlingit, pp. 405, 421). Of 
Haida and Tsimshian names, we know only of those which are the same 
as the names of the chiefs who own them. 

^"^ The value of Tlingit coppers varies according to their size and used 
to be measured in slaves; Tlingit T. and M., pp. 131, 260, 337. Boas studied 
the way in which each copper gains in value through a series of potlatches ; 
e.g. the value of the copper Lesaxalayo about 1906-10 was 9000 woollen 
blankets each worth about $4, 50 canoes, 6000 blankets with buttons, 260 
silver bracelets, 60 gold bracelets, 70 gold ear-rings, 40 sewing machines, 
25 gramophones, 50 masks; and the herald said: 'Now he will give these 
poor things to you, tribes'. {Eth. Kwa., p. 1352. A copper is also compared 
here to the 'body of a whale'.) 

^"^ The destruction of coppers seems to have been carried out in a 
special way. Among the Kwakiutl it is done piecemeal, a part being broken 
with each potlatch. At later potlatches one tries to regain the broken 
portions for they may be riveted on to the copper again — which then 
grows in value; Sec. Soc, p. 334. In any case to spend or break them is to 
'kill' them, Eth. Kwa., p. 12B5. The common expression is 'to throw them 
into the sea': also in Tlingit {Tlingit T. and M., pp. 63, 399). If the coppers 
do not sink or die they are wooden — they float {Tsim. Myth., p. 369). 
Broken, they are said to have 'died on the shore' {Sec. Soc, p. 564). 

2"® The Kwakiutl have two kinds of coppers: the more important which 
do not leave the family and which one can break only to refounder, and 
others which circulate intact, of less value and, as it were, satellites of the 
former (ibid., pp. 564, 579). The possession of these secondary coppers 
probably corresponds to possession of those noble titles and ranks of second 
order with which they travel from chief to chief, family to family, and 
between generations and sexes; while the big coppers and titles remain 
within clans and tribes. 

^*" A Haida myth on the potlatch of chief Hayas tells how a copper 
sings : 'But that thing is bad. . . . Stop Gamsiwa (the name of a town and 
a hero); there are many coppers' {Haida Texts, p. 760). A 'little copper' 
becomes 'big' of its own accord and others crowd around it. In a child's 
song {Eth. Kwa., p. 1312) 'the coppers with great names of the great chiefs 
of the tribes will gather around it'. The coppers are said to 'fall by them- 
selves into the chief's hand'. They 'meet in the house', they are the 'flat 
objects that collect there' (ibid., p. 701). 

*"* Cf. the myth of 'Bringer of Coppers' in the myth of 'Inviter' (Qoex- 
sot'enox), Kwa. T I, p. 248. The same copper is 'Bringer of Property', Sec. 
Soc, p. 415. The secret song of the nobleman 'Inviter' runs: 'My name 


will be "Property coming towards me" because of my "Bringer of Property". 
Choppers come towards me because of my "Bringer of Coppers".' 

'"* E.g. Tlingit T. and M., p. 379; a Tsimshian copper is called a 'shield', 
Tsim. Myth., p. 385. In a text on the donation of coppers in honour of a 
newly initiated son, the coppers are given an armour of property {Sec. Soc, 
p. 557 — allusion to coppers huqg round the neck). The youth's name is 
Yaqois, 'Bearer of Property'. 

*!<• An important rite at the puberty seclusion of Kwakiutl princesses 
shows these beliefs. They wear coppers and abalone shells, and themselves 
take copper-names. It is said that they and their husbands will easily get 
coppers, Eth. Kwa., p. 701. 'Coppers in the House' is the title of the sister 
of an Awikenoq hero, Kwa. T. I, p. 430. A Kwakiutl noble girl's song 
runs: 'I am seated on coppers . . . my belt has been woven by my mother, 
and I use it when I look after the dishes that will be given as my marriage 
payment. . . .' Eth. Kwa., p. 13 14. 

*" Coppers are often identified with spirits ; cf. the well-known theme 
of the animated shield and emblem. Identity of copper with Dzonoqoa and 
Qominoqa, ibid., pp. 142 1, 860. Coppers are totemic animals, Tsim. Myth., 
p. 460. In other cases they are attributes of mythical animals: 'Copper 
Deer' and the 'Copper Antlers' play a role in Kwakiutl summer festivals: 
Sec. Soc, pp. 630-1 ; cf p. 729: 'Greatness on his Body'. Tsimshian consider 
coppers as 'the hair of spirits' — ibid., p. 326 — as 'excrement of spirits' — 
Tsim. Myth., p. 387. Coppers are used in a potlatch given among spirits, 
ibid., p. 285. Coppers 'please them', ibid., p. 846. Cf. the song of Neqa- 
penkem: 'I am pieces of copper, and the chiefs of the tribes are broken 
coppers': Sec. Soc, p. 482. 

^" The copper Dandalayu 'grunts in the house' to be given away, 
ibid., p. 622. The copper Maxtoslem 'complains of not being broken'. The 
blankets with which it is paid for keep it warm. The name means 'which 
other coppers are ashamed to look upon'. Another copper takes part in a 
potlatch and 'is ashamed', Eth. Kwa., p. 882. A Haida copper, Haida Texts, 
p. 689, belonging to chief 'He whose property makes a noise' sings after 
being broken: 'I will decay here, I took away many people (to death 
through the potlatch).' 

"^^ The two rites of the giver and receiver being buried under and 
walking over blankets are equivalent; one is above or beneath one's 

*^* General observation : We know how, why and during what cere- 
monies expenditure and destruction take place in North-West America, 
but it is not always clear exactly how the transfer of things — especially 
coppers — takes place. This question should be studied. The little we do 
know is interesting and shows the bond between property and its owner. 
The cession of a copper is 'to put the copper in the shadow of the name' 
and its acquisition 'gives weight' to the new owner {Sec. Soc, p. 349). With 
the Haida to show that one is buying a piece of land one lifts a copper 
{Haida T. and M., p. 86) ; also one beats people to whom one gives them as 
in the story, ibid., p. 432. Things touched by the copper are annexed to 
it, killed by it. 

CH. Ill NOTES 117 

In at least one myth the Kwakiutl (Sec. Soc, pp. 383-5) retain the 
memory of a transmission rite found also among the Eskimo; the hero bites 
everything he gives away. The Moiise Woman 'licks' what she gives [Haida 
Texts, p. 191). 

'" In the marriage rite of breaking the symbolic canoe, there is this 

'I am going to break Mount Stevens to pieces, I shall make stones for 
my fire 

I am going to break Mount Q,atsai to pieces, I shall make stones for 
my fire 

Wealth is on its way to him from the great chiefs 

Wealth is on its way to him from all sides 

All the big chiefs will be protected by him.' 
*^' With the Kwakiutl these are normally identical. Certain nobles are 
identified with their potlatch. The principal chief's main title is Maxwa, 
meaning 'great potlatch', Eth. Kwa., p. 972. In the same clan are the names 
'Giver of Potlatches', etc. In another Kwakiutl tribe, the Dzawadeenoxu, 
one of the main titles is Polas. The principal chief of the Heiltsuq is in 
relations with the spirit Qominoqa, the rich woman and has the name 
'Maker of Wealth', Eth. Kwa., pp. 424, 427. Qaqtsenoqu princes have 
'summer names' — clan names made up of the word 'property' — e.g. 
'Property of the Body', 'Great Property', 'Place of Property', Kwa. T. I, 
p. 191. The Naqoatoq Kwakiutl give their chief the titles Maxwa and 
Yaxlem ('Property') ; this name figures in the myth of 'Body of Stone'. The 
spirit says: 'Your name will be Property', ibid., p. 215. Also with the Haida 
a chief has the name 'That which cannot be bought', Haida, p. 294. The 
same chief is also 'Everything Mixed', i.e. a potlatch assembly, ibid. 

Chapter III 

* Meillet, H. Ldvy-Bruhl and Huvelin contributed invaluable sugges- 
tions for the passage that follows. 

* Outside the hypothetical reconstruction of the Twelve Tables and some 
laws preserved as inscriptions, our sources for the first four centuries of 
Roman law are very poor. We do not, however, adopt the hypercritical 
attitude of Lambert in 'L'Histoire traditionelle des Douzes Tables', 
Milanges AppUton, 1906. Nevertheless, many of the theories of Romanists 
and Roman antiquaries should still be treated as hypotheses. It might even 
be permitted liS to add another hypothesis to the list. 

* On the nexum see Huvelin, 'Nexum' in Dictionnaire des Antiquaires ; 
'Magie et Droit individuels', .^4.5'., X, and his analyses and discussions in 
A.S., VII, 472 ff.; IX, 412 ff.; XI, 442 ff.; XII, 482 ff.; Foi Jurie, p. 135; 
bibliography and theories of Romanists, see Giraud, Manuel elimentaire de 
Droit Romain, 7th edn., p. 354. 

Huvelin and Giraud appear to hold close to the truth. However, the 
injury clause {Magie et Droit, p. 28, cf 'Injuria', Melanges Appleton) is in 
our opinion not solely magic. It is a clear case, a trace, of former potlatch 


rules. The fact that the one is a debtor and the other a creditor allows the 
one thus in a position of superiority to injure his opponent, the man who 
is under an obligation to him: hence a series of joking relationships to which 
we drew attention in A.S., New Series, I, particularly in the Winnebago 

* Huvelin, Magie et Droit. 

^ On wadiatio, see Davy, A.S., XII, 522-3. 

* Our rendering of the word slips is based on that of Isidore de Seville. 
See Huvelin, Slips, Slipulatio {Melanges Fadda, 1906) ; Giraud, Manuel, p. 507, 
following Sevigny, holds the texts of Varro and Festus against such a purely 
metaphorical representation. Festus having spoken of stipulus and firmus 
mentions in a sentence in part missing, '(?) defixus\ possibly a stick fixed 
in the ground ; cf. throwing a stick at the sale of land in contracts of the 
Hammurabi period in Babylon, see Cuq, in JVouvelle Revue Historique de 
Droit, 1910, p. 407. 

' See Huvelin in A.S., X, 33. 

* We do not propose to enter the discussions of Romanists, but we 
would add a few observations to those of Huvelin and Giraud on the nexum. 
(i) The word is derived from neclere upon which Festus has preserved one 
of the rare documents of the Pontifices which have survived: Napuras 
slramentis neclilo. The document alludes to the taboo on property indicated 
by knots made in straw. Thus the thing tradila was itself marked and tied 
and came to the accipiens with this mark on it. Thus it would bind him. 
(2) The person who becomes nexus is the receiver, accipiens. Now the rite of 
the nexum supposes he is emplus, usually translated as 'bought'. But emptus 
really means acceplus. The person who has received the thing is not only 
bought, but received also, by the loan, because he has received the thing 
and because he has received the copper ingot which the loan gives him as 
well as the thing itself. There is discussion whether there is damnatio, 
tnancipatio, etc. in the transaction {Manuel, p. 503). Without entering into 
the argument we state our opinion that these terms are more or less syno- 
nymous. Cf. expressions nexo mancipioque and emit mancipioque accepit of the 
inscriptions (sale of slaves) . There is no difficulty in holding this opinion 
since the fact of accepting a thing from someone makes you obliged to him : 
damnalus, emptus, nexus. (3) It seems that the Romanists — and Huvelin — 
have not paid enough attention to a formal detail of the nexum — what 
happens to the brass ingot, the aes nexum so much discussed in Festus. At 
the establishment of the nexum this bar is given by the donor to the recipient. 
But, we believe, when the latter freed himself he does so not only by making 
the promised prestation or by giving over the object or its price, but, more 
important, with the same scales and the same witnesses he returns the same 
bar to his creditor. Thus he buys it and receives it in its turn. This rite of 
the solutio of the nexum is well described in Gaius, III, 174. Since in an 
immediate sale the two actions happened as it were at the same time or 
with a very small interval, the 'double symbol was less noticeable than in a 
credit sale or in the case of a loan ; hence it passed unnoticed. But it was 
there all the same. If our interpretation is correct there is, in addition to 
the nexum from the object of sale, another nexum deriving from this ingot 

GH. Ill NOTES 119 

given and received, and weighed in the same scales by the two contractors. 
(4) Let us suppose, moreover, we can imagine a Roman contract before 
the time of bronze money or the weighed ingot or even the piece of copper 
in the form of a cow {aesflatum) ; we know that the first Roman money was 
coined by the gentes in the form of cattle (probably as tokens representing 
the cattle of these gentes) . Let us suppose a sale where the price is paid in 
real or imaginary cattle. We then realize that the handing over of this 
cattle-price or its equivalent brought the buyer and seller together; as in 
each sale or transfer of cattle the person who acquires them remains for 
some time in contact with the person who ceded them. 

' Varro, De Re Rustica, II, i, 15. 

^° On familia see Digest, L, XVI, de verb, sign., no. 195, para. i. 'Familiae 
appellatio . . . et in res, at in personas diducitur . . .' (Ulpian). Until late 
in Roman law the action of the division of inheritance is called familiae 
erciscundae, Digest, XI, II, and the Code, III, XXXVIII. Inversely res 
equals familia ; Twelve Tables, V, 3, 'super pecunia tutelave suae rei'. Cf. 
Giraud, Textes de Droit remain, p. 86g; Cuq, Institutions, I, 37. Gains, II, 224 
reproduces this text: 'super familia pecuniaque'. Familia equals res and 
substantia — cf Code (Justinian) VI, XXX, 5. Cf. familia rustica et urbana, 
Digest, L, XVI, de verb, sign., no. 166. 

^^ Cicero, De Orat., 56: pro Caecina, VII. Terence, 'decern dierum vix 
mihi est familia'. 

^* Walde, p. 70. Although Walde hesitates over the proposed etymology, 
there is no need. The principal res, the real mancipium of the familia is the 
mancipium slave whose other name, famulus, has the same etymology as 

^^ On the distinction yamjVia pecuniaque attested by the sacratae leges and 
by numerous texts, see Giraud, Textes, p. 841 . It is certain the nomenclature 
was not very definite, yet contrary to Giraud we believe that originally there 
was a clear distinction. The distinction is found in the Oscan fame lo in eituo 
{Lex Bantia, 1. 13). 

^* This distinction did not disappear from Roman law until a.d. 532 
when it was expressly abrogated. 

^* On mancipatio see later. The fact that it was necessary, or at least 
licit, until so late a date shows how difficult it was for the familia to do 
without res mancipi. 

^' On this etymology see Walde, p. 650. Cf. rayih, property, valuable 
thing, talisman. Cf. Avestic rae, rayyi, same meanings; cf. old Irish rath, 
gracious gift. 

^' The Oscan word for res is egmo, cf. Lex Bantia. Walde connects egmo 
with egere, the thing one lacks. Possibly ancient Italic languages had two 
corresponding and antithetical words meaning a thing which one gives 
and which gives pleasure {res) and the thing lacked and which one expects 

^* See Huvelin, 'Furtum' {Melanges Girard), pp. 159-75. 

^* Expression of a very old law, lex Atinia, XVII, 7: 'Quod subruptum 
erit ejus rei aeterna auctoritas est.' Cf. Ulpian III, 4 and 6. Cf. Huvelin, 
Magie et Droit, p. 19. 


*" With the Haida the victim of a theft places a dish before the thief's 
door and the thing returns. 

■* Giraud, Manuel, p. 265. Cf Digest, XIX, IV, de Permut. : 'permutatio 
autem ex re tradita initium obligationi praebat.' 

** Mod. Regul. in Digest, XLIV, VII, de Obi. et act., 52, 're obUgamur 
cum res ipsa intercedit.' 

"Justinian, Code VIII, LVI. 

" Paul, Digest, XLI, 1-3 1. 

" Code II, III, de Pactis 20. 

*• On the meaning of reus, guilty, responsible, see Mommsen, Romisches 
Strafrecht, 3rd edn., p. 189. The classic interpretation comes from a sort of 
historical a-priorism which makes public personal law and in particular 
criminal law the primitive form of law, and which sees real law and con- 
tracts as modern refinements. 

Reus belongs to the language of religion (v. Wissowa, Religion und 
Kultus der Romer, p. 320) no less than to the language of law: voti reus {Aeneid, 
V, 327) 'reus qui voto se numinibus obligat' {Servius ad Aen., IV, 699). The 
equivalent of reus is voti damnatus (Virgil, Eclogues, V, i , 80) ; and this is 
suggestive since damnatus equals nexus. A person who makes a vow is in the 
same position as one who has promised or received a thing. Until he is 
acquitted he is damnatus. 

^'' Indo-Germanische FoTschungen, XIV, 131. 

*• Walde, p. 651 at reus. This is the interpretation of Roman lawyers 
themselves (Cicero, de Orat. II, 183, 'Rei omnes quorum de re disceptatur') ; 
they all implied by res an affair present to the mind. It is reminiscent of the 
Twelve Tables, II, 2, where rem does not mean simply the accused, but both 
parties in any action — the actor and the reus of later procedures. Festus 
commenting on the Twelve Tables cites two very early jurisconsults on the 
subject. Cf. Ulpian, Digest, II, XI, 2, 3, 'alterutur ex litigatoribus'. 

2' To the very early Roman jurisconsults cited by Festus reus still means 
a person responsible for, made responsible by, something. 

*• In the Lex Bantia in Oscan minstreis equals minoris partis (1. 19), the 
party which fails in the action. The meaning of these terms was not lost in 
Italic dialects. 

*^ Romanists seem to put the distinction between mancipatio and emptio 
venditio too early. It is unlikely that at the time of the Twelve Tables, or 
even for some time after that, there were contracts of sale which were pure 
consensual contracts as they later became at a period one can date roughly 
as being that of Q. M. Scaevola. The Twelve Tables use the phrase 'venum 
dunif to mean the most dignified sale possible and which could certainly 
be made only by means of mancipatio — the sale of a son. For things mancipi 
at this period sale was exclusively by means of mancipatio and our terms 
were thus synonymous. The Ancients retained a memory of this identity; 
see PomponiuSj Digest XL, VII, de statu liberis: 'Quoniam Lex XII T. 
emtionis verbo omnem alienationem complexa videatur'. On the other 
hand, for a long period the word mancipatio meant acts which are pure 
consensual contracts like Jiducia, with which it is occasionally confused. 

CH. Ill NOTES 121 

See Giraud, Manuel, p. 545. No doubt mancipatio, mancipium and nexum 
were, at a very early date, used indifferently. 

Nevertheless, while noting the synonymity, we consider in what follows 
only mancipatio of those res which form part of the familia and we depart 
from the principle given by Ulpian, XIX, 3: 'Mancipatio . . . propria 
alienatio rerum mancipi.' 

'* For Varro emptio means mancipatio: II, i, 15; 2, 5; 5, 11; 10, 4. 

'^ It may be that this traditio was accompanied by rites like those in the 
formality of manumissio, the liberation of a slave who purchases his own 
freedom. We are ill informed on the behaviour of the two parties to manci- 
patio. It is remarkable that the formula of manumissio is basically the same 
as that of the emptio venditio of cattle. Perhaps after taking up the thing to 
be handed over the tiadens hit it with the palm of his hand. Cf. vus rave — 
the rap given to a pig (Banks Is., Melanesia), and the slap given in European 
fairs to the cruppers of cattle sold. We would not risk these hypotheses if 
the texts (particularly Gaius) were not full of gaps which will probably be 
filled later by the discovery of more manuscripts. Note also that this rite 
is identical with the beating of Haida coppers. 

'* Cuq, Institutions Juridiques des Remains, Vol. II, p. 454. 

^* The stipulatio, the exchange of two pieces of a stick, corresponding to 
former pledges and supplementary gifts. 

" Festus, at manumissio. 

'^ Varro, de re rustica, 2, i, 15; 2, v, 11: sanis, noxis salutos, etc. 

'* Note also the expressions mutui datio, etc. The Romans had only one 
word dare to express all the actions implied in traditio. 

" Walde, p. 253. 

" Digest, XVIII, I, 33. 

*i On words of this kind see Ernout, 'Credo-Craddha' {Milanges Sylvain 
Levi, 191 1): another case of identity between Italo-Celtic and Indo- 
Iranian vocabularies. Note the archaic form of all these words. 

*^ See Walde, vendere. Perhaps the very old term licitatio is a reminder 
that war and sale are equivalent: 'licitati in mercando sive pugnando 
contendentes' says Festus at licitati: cf. Tlingit and Kwakiutl 'war of 

*^ We have not given enough attention to Greek law or the law which 
preceded the great Ionic and Doric codifications, so we cannot say whether 
or not the various peoples of Greece knew these rules of the gift. It would 
be necessary to review a complete literature, but we can mention one point 
at present: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1123, refers to the magnanimous 
citizen, his public and private expenses, his duties and resp>onsibilities, and 
mentions reception of strangers, embassies, kol Scupea? koI amriScopeds, 
how they expend els ra Koivd; and he adds to. 8e bwpa toi? dvaOijfiaaLv 
l;^et Tt ofioLov — gifts have some analogy with consecrations. 

Two other living Indo-European systems of law present this kind of 
institution, Albanian and Ossetian. We simply make mention here of the 
modern law3 or decrees prohibiting or limiting, among these jjeople, 
excessive waste on occasions of marriage, death, etc. : Kovalewski, Coutume 
contemporaine et Lot ancienne, p. 187. 

122 THEGIFT CH. Ill 

Most forms of contract are attested to on Aramaic papyri of the Jews 
of Philae in Egypt, fifth century B.C. See Cowley, Aramaic Papyri, Oxford, 
1923. Note also work of Ungnad on Babylonian contracts (see Huvelin, 
A.S., XII, p. 108 and Cuq, 'Etudes sur les Contrats . . .', Nouvelle Revue de 
VHistoire du Droit, 19 10. 

** Ancient Hindu law is known to us through two collections published 
late in comparison with the rest of the scriptures. The oldest series is 
Dharmasutra which Biihler dates anterior to Buddhism ('Sacred Laws' in 
Sacred Books of the East, intro.). But it may be that some of the sutras, or 
the period in which they were founded, were post-Buddhic. In any case 
they are a part of the Hindu Cruti, Revelation. The other series is the 
Smrti, the Tradition, or the Dharmacastra : Books of the Law in which the 
most important is the famous Manu code which is slightly later than the 

We prefer to use a long epic document which, in Brahminic tradition, 
has the value of Smrti and Castra. The Anuc. is more explicit on gift customs 
than the law books. Moreover, it has equal authority and the same inspira- 
tion. It seems to have the same tradition of the Brahminic school of the 
Manava as that upon which the Manu code itself is based (see Biihler, 
The Laws of Manu). Indeed the parvan and Manu code would seem to quote 
each other. 

The book is an enormous epic on gifts. It is very popular in India. The 
poem relates how it was recited in tragic circumstances to Yudhisthira, 
the great king and incarnation of Dharma, by the seer-king Bhisma, on 
his bed of arrows at the time of his death. 

** It is clear that if not the rules, at least the publication of the castras 
and epics are posterior to the struggle against Buddhism to which they 
refer. The Anuc. is full of references to Buddhism (see specially Adhyaya, 
120). Perhaps indeed the definitive publication was as late as to allow 
allusion to Christianity in reference to the theory of gifts in the same parvan, 
114, where Vyasa adds: 'That is the law subtly taught . . . that he does 
naught to others which he would not have done to himself — that is the 
law {dharma) in brief (1. 5673). On the other hand, it is conceivable that 
the Brahmins, so fond of proverbs and dicta, arrived themselves at this 
idea. The preceding line has a notably Brahminic flavour: 'Such a one 
takes desire as his guide (and is wrong). In the refusal and in the gift, in 
luck and in misfortune, in pleasure and in misery it is in refusing (things) 
to himself that a man measures them.' The commentary of Nilakawtha is 
not Christian: 'As one behaves to others, so (others behave to him). It is 
by feeling how one would take a refusal after having solicited . . . that one 
sees it is necessary to give.' 

*' We do not mean that from the very ancient days of the publication 
of the Rg Veda the Aryans in North-East India had no concept of the 
market, merchant, price, money or sale (see Zimmern, Altindisches Leben, 
pp. 257 ff.) : Rg Veda, IV, 24, 9. The Atharva Veda is familiar with this 
economy. Indra himself is a mei'chant {Kaucika-sutra, VII, i. Hymn III, 15, 
the ritual of a man going to a sale) . 

Nor do we infer that this was the only origin of the contract in India, 

CH. Ill NOTES 123 

nor that India had no other forms of obligation. We seek only to show the 
existence, beside these laws, of another system. 

*' In particular there must have been — as with the aborigines today — 
total prestation of clans and villages. The prohibition on Brahmins {Vasistha, 
14, 10 and Gautama, XIII, 17; Manu, IV, 217) against accepting anything 
from 'crowds', partaking in feasts offered by them, certainly points to 
customs of this sort. 

** E.g. the adanam, gifts made by friends to parents of young initiates, 
betrothed persons, etc., is identical, even in name, to the Germanic Gaben 
which we mention later (see Oldenburg, Sacred Books of India, in Grhyasutra 
(domestic ritual). Another example, honour from gifts (of food), Anuc, 
1. 5850: 'Honoured, they honour, decorated, they decorate, the giver 
everywhere is glorified.' 

** An etymological and semantic study would provide results analogous 
to those we obtained on Roman law. The oldest Vedic documents are full 
of words whose derivations are even clearer than those of the Latin words 
we discussed, and all presuppose — even those concerning the market and 
sale — another system where exchanges, gifts and wagers took the place of 
the contracts we normally think of when we speak of these matters. Much 
has been made of the uncertainty (general in Indo-European languages) 
of the meaning of the Sanskrit word which we translate as 'to give'— </a, 
and its numerous derivatives. 

Another example we may take are the Vedic words which best represent 
the technical act of sale ; these are parada culkaya, to sell at a price, and all 
the words derived from pan, e.g. pani, merchant. Parada includes da, and 
culka, which has the technical sense of the Latin pretium, means actually 
price of a fiancee, payment for sexual services, tax and tribute. Pan which 
gives pani (merchant, greedy, and a name for strangers) in the Rg Veda, 
and the word for money, pana, later karsapana, means to sell as well as 
gamble, bet, struggle for something, give, exchange, risk, dare, gain, stake. 
Pana, money, means also thing sold, payment, object of bet or gamble, 
gambhng house and alms-house. This vocabulary links ideas which are 
found together only in the potlatch. They reveal the original system upon 
which was based the later system of sale and purchase in its proper sense. 
But this etymological reconstruction is unnecessary with Hindu material. 

"• See resume of the epic in Mahabharata, Andiparvan, 6. 

*^ See, e.g., the legend of Hariccandra,5'wZ»/za-/)aroan, Mahabharata, Book II, 
12; and Virata-parvan, 72. 

** We must admit that on the obligation to make return gifts — our 
main subject — there are few facts from Hindu law except perhaps in Manu, 
VIII, 213. The clearest reference consists in a rule forbidding the return 
of gifts. It seems that originally the funerary craddha, the feast of the dead 
so highly developed by the Brahmins, was an opportunity to invite oneself 
and to make invitations in return. It was formally forbidden to proceed in 
this manner. Anuc., 431 1, 4315: 'He who invites only friends to the craddha 
does not go to heaven. One must invite neither friends nor enemies, but 
n'.utrals.' This prohibition was probably revolutionary. But the poet 
connects it with a definite school and period {Vaikhansa Cruti, 1. 4323). 

124 THEGIFT CH. Ill 

Evil Brahmins in fact oblige the gods and spirits to make returns on presents 
given them. Most people doubtless continued to invite friends to the 
festival — and they still do so in India. But although the Brahmins did not 
return presents, did not invite — indeed did not receive — there are plenty 
of documents in their codes to illustrate our case. 

" Vasistha Dharma, XXIX, i, 8, 9, 11-19. Cf Anuc, 64-9. This whole 
section seems to be a sort of litany; it is part astrological and starts with a 
danakalpa determining the constellations beneath which what people should 
give what things. 

^^ Anuc, 3212: even food offered to dogs, or to one who cooks for dogs, 
cvapaka. See the general principles on the way in which one regains things 
given away in the series of reincarnations ; sanction on the miser, who is 
reborn in a poor family (XIII, 145). 

"•^ Anuc., 3135, cf 3162. 

^« This whole parvan, this song of Mahabharata is an answer to the 
question: how does one acquire Fortune, Cri, the unstable goddess? A 
first answer is that Cri lives among cattle, in their dung and their urine, 
where the cattle, as goddesses, have permitted her to reside. Thus to give 
a cow assures happiness (1. 82). A second answer, fundamentally Hindu 
(1. 163), teaches that the secret of Fortune and Happiness is to give, not to 
keep, not to seek but to distribute it that it may return in this world of its 
own accord in the form of the gift rendered and in the other world. Self- 
renunciation and getting only to give, this is the law of nature, the real 
source of profit (5657) : 'Every man should make his days fertile by giving 
away food.' 

*' 3136 — this stanza is called a gatha. It is not a cloka; thus it derives 
from an ancient tradition. I believe, moreover, that the first half-line 
mamevadattha, mam dattha, mam dattva mamevapsyaya can be taken separately 
from the second. Line 3132 does so in advance: 'Like a cow running to 
her calf, her udders dropping milk, so the blessed earth runs towards the 

** Baudhayana Dh., su. 11, 18 — contemporary not only with these rules 
of hospitality but also with the cult of food, which can be said to be con- 
temporary with later forms of Vedic religion and to have lasted until 
Vishnuism when it disintegrated. Angihotra are Brahminic sacrifices, late 
Vedic period. Cf. Baudh. Dh., su. 11, 6, 41-2 ; cf. Taittiriya Aranyaka, VIII, 2. 

"* The whole thing is exposed in the intercourse between the rsi Maitreya 
and Vyasa, the incarnation of ICrsna Draipayana {Anuc., XIII, 120-1). 
Here there is a trace of the struggle between Brahminism and Buddhism 
(1. 5802) ; and also allusion to a period where Krishnaism is victorious. 
But the doctrine is ancient Brahminic theology and the most ancient 
morality of India. 

«" Ibid., 5831. Read the Calcutta edition annam in place of the Bombay 
artham. The second half-line is obscure : 'This food which he eats, in whom 
it is food, he is the assassin who is killed, the fool.' The two following lines 
are also enigmatic but express the idea more clearly and allude to a doctrine 
that had a name, that of a rsi (5834) : 'The wise man eating food gives it 
rebirth, and in its turn, food gives him rebirth' (5863). 'For the merit of 

CH. Ill NOTES 125 

the donor is the merit of the recipient (and vice versa) for here is but one 
wheel turning in one direction.' The rendering of Pratap {Mahabharata) is 
much paraphrased but based on good commentaries. 

*^ Atharvaveda, V, 18, 3. 

•* I, 5, 16; cf. above aeterna auctoritas of the stolen res. 

•' 70. Reference is to a gift of cattle, of which the ritual is given in 69. 

•* 'The property of the Brahmin kills like the cow of the Brahmin (kills) 
Nrga'— 1. 3462, cf. 3519 . 

•* Anuc, 72, 76-7. These rules are given with a plethora of detail — 
improbable and no doubt purely theoretical. The ritual is attributed to 
the school of Brhaspati. It lasts three days and nights before the event and 
three days after it; at times it even lasts ten days (3532, 3517, 3597). 

•' He lived in a continual giving of cattle — gavam pradana, 3695. 

•' This is also a purifying ritual. He is delivered of all sin (3673). 

*^ Samanga (having all his limbs), Bahula (broad, fat), 1. 3670. Cf. 
1. 6042, the cattle say: ''Bahula, Samanga. You have no fear, you are pacified, 
you are a good friend.' The epic mentions that these are names from the 
Veda and Cruti. The sacred names are in fact found in Atharvaveda, V, 4, 18. 

'* 'Giver of you, I am giver of myself', 3676. 

'° The act of taking; the word is like accipere, Aa/^tj3avetv, etc. 

"^ Line 3677. The ritual shows that one can offer cattle 'in the shape 
of a cake of simsim or rancid butter' or in gold or silver; in which case 
these were treated as real cattle (3523, 3839). The rites of the transaction 
are rather better perfected. Ritual names are given to these cattle; one 
means 'the Future'. The sojourn among cattle and the 'cattle oath' are 

'* Ap. Dh., su. I, 17; Manu, X, 86-95. The Brahmin can sell what has 
not been bought. 

'* Ap. Dh., su. I, 18, I ; Gautama Dh., su. XVH, 3. Cf. Anuc, 93-4. 

'* Ap. Dh., su. I, 19, where Kanva, another Brahminic school, is quoted. 

'* Manu, IV, p. 233. 

" Gautama Dh., su. XVII, 6, 7 ; Manu, IV, 253. List of people from 
whom the Brahmins may not receive: Gautama Dh., XVII, cf. Manu, IV, 


'^ List of things that must be refused: Ap., I, 18; Gautama, XVII. 
Cf. Manu, IV, 247-50. 

''^ Anuc., 136; cf. Manu, IV, p. 250; X, pp. 101-2; Ap. Dh., I, 18, 5-8; 
Gautama, VII, 4-5. 

''" Baudh. Dh., su. 11, 5, 8; Recitation of Taratsamandi, as Rg Veda, 
IX, 58. 

*" 'The energy and brilliance of the sages are spoiled by the fact that 
they receive'. 'Guard thyself, O King, from those who will not receive' 
{Anuc., 2164). 

" Gautama, XVII, 19; Ap., I, 17. Etiquette of the gift, Manu, VII, p. 86. 

** Krodho hantiyad danam, 'Anger kills the gift', Anuc, 3638. 

^^ Ap., II, 6, 19; cf. Manu, III, 5, 8, with absurd theological interpre- 
tation: 'one eats the fault of one's host'. This refers to the general pro- 
hibition on Brahmins against exercising an essential trade which they still 

126 THE GIFT CH. Ill 

exercise, although they are reputed not to — the 'eating' of sins. This would 
mean that no good came of the gift for either of the parties. 

** One is reborn in the other world with the nature of those whose food 
one accepts, or of those whose food is in one's stomach, or with the nature 
of the food itself. 

** The whole theory is summed up in the fairly late Anuc, 131, under 
the title of danadharma (6278) : 'What gifts, to whom, when and by whom'. 
The five motives of gift -giving are set out : duty, when one gives spontane- 
ously to Brahmins; self-interest ('he gives me, he gave me, he will give me') ; 
fear ('I am not his, he is not mine, he could harm me'); love ('he is dear 
to me and I to him' — 'he gives without delay') ; and pity ('he is poor and 
is satisfied with little'). 

^* Line 5834. One might also study the ritual by which the thing given 
is purified — which is also clearly a means of detaching it from the donor. 
It is sprinkled with water by means of a blade of grass, kuca. For food see 
Gautama, V, 21, 18-9; Ap., II, 9, 8. Cf. water purifying debt, Anuc, 69, 21, 
and comments, Pratap, p. 313. 

8' The data are fairly recent: our Edda songs date from a time after the 
conversion of the Scandinavians to Christianity. But the age of the tradition 
may be much earlier, and even the oldest known form of the tradition may 
differ from the institutions them-selves. But there is no danger in the use of 
the facts; for some of the gifts which have such an important place in the 
customs we describe are among the earliest institutions observed among 
the Germanic tribes. Tacitus describes two forms: marriage gifts and the 
way in which they return to the givers {Germania, XVIII); and gifts of 
noblemen, particularly those given to or by chiefs (ibid., XV). If these 
customs remained as long as to enable us to observe traces of them it means 
surely that they were solidly implanted in Germanic society. 

8 8 See Schrader and his references in Reallexikon der Indogermanisches 
Altertumskunde under Markt, Kauf. 

^* Kauf and its derivatives come from the Latin caupo, merchant. The 
doubt about the meanings of the words leihen, lehnen, Lohn, biirgen, borgen, 
etc., is recognized and shows that their technical use is recent. 

*" Here we do not raise the question oi geschlossene Hauswirtschaft — closed 
economy — cf. Biicher, Entstehung der Volkswirtschaft. There were two clans 
in a society and they must have made contracts and exchanges not only 
of wives (exogamy) and ritual, but also of goods at certain periods of the 
year and on certain occasions. The rest of the time the family lived to itself, 
but it never lived to itself at all seasons. 

*i See Kluge and other etymological dictionaries of the Germanic 
languages. See Von Amira on Abgabe, Ausgabe, Morgengabe {Handbuch 
Hermann Paul). 

•2 The best works are still : J. Grimm, 'Schenken und Geben\ Kleine Schriften, 
Vol. II, p. 174; Brunner, Deutsche Rechtsbegriffe besch. Eigentum. See also 
Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterthiimer, Vol. I, p. 246, cf. p. 297 on Bete, Gabe. 
The hypothesis on the development of the obligatory from the unconditional 
gift is untenable. Both kinds have always existed and in German law their 
character has always been fused. 

CH. iir Notes 127 

*' 'Zur Geschichte des Schenkens', Steinhausen ^eitschrift fiir Kultur- 
geschichte, V, i8 ff. 

** E. Mayer, Deutsche Volkskunde, pp. 115, 168, 181, 183, and all hand- 
books of Germanic folklore. 

*^ Here is another answer to van Ossenbruggen's query on the magical 
and legal nature of bridewealth. See the theory on the many prestations 
made to or by spouses in Morocco in Westermarck, Marriage Ceremonies in 
Morocco, pp. 361 ff. 

•* In what follows we keep the pledge distinct from the arrhes although 
this, of Semitic origin (as the Greek and Latin words indicate) was known 
to later Germanic law. It has even become confused with 'gift', e.g. Handgeld 
is Harren in some Tyrolese dialects. 

We omit to show also the importance of the notion of the pledge in 
marriage: we simply remark that in some Germanic dialects bridewealth 
is Pfand, Wetten, Trugge and Ehehalter. 

*' A.S., IX, 29 ff. Cf Kovalewski, Coutume contemporaine et Lai ancienne, 
pp. Ill fT. 

On the Germanic wadium, see Thevenin, 'Contributions a 1' etude du 
Droit germanique', Nouv. Rev. Hist. Droit, IV, 72 ; Grimm, Deutsche Rechts- 
alterthiimer. Vol. I, pp. 209-13; Von Amira, 'Obligationen Recht', Hdb. 
Hermann Paul, Vol. I, pp. 248, 254. On wadiatio, see Davy, A.S., XII, pp. 
522 ff. 

•* Brissaud, Manuel d^Histoire du Droit frangais, 1904, p. 1381. Huvelin 
interprets this fact as a degeneration of the primitive magical rite into a 
simple moral theme; but this is only a partial explanation and does not 
exclude the possibility of our proposals. 

*' We return later to the derivations of 'wedding' and ' Wette\ The 
ambiguity of 'wager' and 'contract' is notable even in French, e.g. se dejier 
and defier. 

^"^ On festuca notata see Heusler, Institutionen, Vol. I, pp. 76 ff. Huvelin 
neglects the custom of tallies. 

'"^ Melanges Ch. Andler, Strasburg, 1924. We are asked why we do not 
examine the etymology of gift as coming from the Latin dosis, Greek Socris, 
a dose (of poison). It would suppose that High and Low German had 
retained a scientific word for a common event, and this is contrary to 
normal semantic rules. Moreover, one would have to explain the choice 
of the word Gift. Finally, the Latin and Greek dosis, meaning poison, shows 
that with the Ancients as well there was association of ideas and moral 
rules of the kind we are describing. 

We compare the uncertainty of the meaning of Gift with that of the 
Latin venenum and the Greek (^iXrpov and <f)dp(JLaKov. Cf. also venia, venus, 
venenum — vanati (Sanskrit, to give pleasure) and gewinnen and win. 

^°^ Reginsmal, 7. The gods have killed Otr, son of Hreidmar, and have 
been obliged to redeem themselves by covering Otr's skin with gold. But 
the god Loki curses the gold, and Hreidmar answers with the words quoted. 
We owe this observation to Cohen who notes that 'of a benevolent heart' 
— af heilom hug — actually means 'of a lucky disposition'. 


*** The Chinese law of real estate, like Germanic and old French law, 
recognizes the right which relatives — even distant — have to repurchase 
property which ought not to have passed from the hereditary line; see 
Hoang, 'Notions techniques sur la Propriete en Chine', VarietSs sinologues, 
1897, pp. 8, 9. We do not pay much attention to this. The sale of land is a 
recent thing, specially in China. Up to the time of Roman law, and again 
in old French and Germanic laws, it was surrounded by restrictions deriving 
from community in family life, and the profound attachment of family to 
land and vice versa. Old and new laws concerning the homestead, and 
recent French legislation on inalienable family property, are a perpetuation 
of an ancient state of affairs. 

10* Hoang, ibid., pp. 10, 109, 133. I owe these facts to Mestre and 

105 Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, Vol. I, p. 594. Westermarck 
felt that there was a problem of the sort we are tackling but treated it only 
from the point of view of laws of hospitality. Read, however, his important 
observation on the Moroccan custom of ar (sacrifice occasioning constraint 
to the supplicant, p. 386) and on the principle: 'God and food will pay 
him' (remarkably similar to Hindu). Marriage Ceremonies in Morocco, p. 365; 
cf. Anthropological Essays to E. B. Tylor, pp. 373 ff. 

Chapter IV 

* Cf. Koran, sura H; cf. Kohler in Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. I, p. 465. 

* WiUiam James, Principles of Psychology, Vol. H, p. 409. 

* Kruyt, Koopen, p. 12 of extract, for similar facts from Celebes. Cf. 
'De Toradja's . . .', Tijd. v. Kon. Batav. Gen., LXHI, 2, p. 299: rite for 
bringing buffalo to stable; p. 296, ritual for buying a dog limb by limb; 
p. 281, the cat is not sold, on any pretext, but loans itself 

* Of course we do not imply any destruction ; the legal principles of the 
market, of buying and selling, which are the indispensable conditions for 
the formation of capital, can and must exist beside other new and old 

Yet the moralist and legislator should not be bound in by so-called 
principles of natural law. The distinction between real and personal law 
should be considered as a theoretical abstraction derived from some of our 
laws. It should be allowed to exist, but kept in its proper place. 

« Roth, 'Games' in Bulletin of the Ethnology of Queensland, no. 28, p. 23. 
The announcement of the name of the visiting clan is a common custom 
in East Australia and is connected with the honour and virtue of the name. 
The last sentence suggests that betrothals are contracted through the 
exchange of gifts. 

« Radin, 'Winnebago Tribe', A.R.B.A.E., XXXVII, 320 ff. See article 
'Etiquette' in Hodge, Handbook of American Indians. 

"> Ibid., p. 326. Exceptionally two chiefs invited were members of the 
Snake Clan. OF. almost identical speeches in a funeral feast: Tlingit T. 
and M., p. 372. 


' Taylor, Te ika a Mani, p. 130, gives this translation, but the literal 
rendering is probably as follows: *As much as Maru gives, so much Maru 
receives, and all is well' (Maru is god of war and justice). 

* Biicher, Entstehung der Volkswirtschqft, 3rd edn., p. 73, saw these 
economic phenomena but underestimated their importance, reducing them 
all to a matter of hospitality. 

^'^ Argonauts, pp. 167 ff.; Primitive Ec, 1921. See Frazer's preface to 

^^ One of the most extravagant we can quote is the sacrifice of dogs 
among the Chukchee. The owners of the best kennels destroy their whole 
teams and sledges and have to buy new ones. 

^* Argonauts, p. 95. Cf. Preface. 

^' Les Formes Elementaries de la Vie religieuse, p. 598. 

" Digest, XVIII, I, de contr. emt. Paul us explains the great Roman 
debate on whether or not permutatio was a sale. The whole passage is of 
interest — even the mistake which the legal scholar makes in his interpreta- 
tion of Homer, Iliad, VII, 472-5: olvlovto certainly means to buy, tut 
Greek money was bronze, iron, skins, cows and slaves, all having pre- 
determined values. 

^^ Pol., Book I, 1257; note the word fjueTaSocris- 

^''Argonauts, p. 177. Note that in this case there is no sale for there is 
no exchange of vajigu'a. The Trobrianders do not go so far as to use money 
in exchange. 

^^ Ibid., p. 179; cf. p. 183 for payment of a kind of licit prostitution of 
unmarried girls. 

^* Cf ibid., p. 81. Sagali (cf. hakari) means distribution. 

^' Cf. ibid., p. 82, in particular the gift oi urigubu to the brother-in-law; 
harvest products in exchange for labour. 

*° The division of labour and how it works in the inter-clan Tsimshian 
feast is admirably described in a potlatch myth in Tsim. Myth., p. 274, 
cf. p. 378. There are many examples like this. These economic institutions 
exist even with societies much less developed, e.g. Australia — the remark- 
able situation of a local group possessing a deposit of red ochre ( Aiston and 
Home, Savage Life in C. Australia, London, 1924, pp. 81, 130). 

^^ The equivalence in Germanic languages of the words token and 
Zeichen for money in general is a survival of these institutions. The mark 
on money and the pledge it is are the same thing, just as a man's signature 
is also a mark of his responsibility. 

** Foi Juree, pp. 344 ff. In 'Des Clans aux Empires', EUments de Sociologie, 
Vol. I, he exaggerates the importance of these points. The potlatch is 
useful for establishing the hierarchy and does often establish it, but this is 
not a necessary element. African societies either do not have the potlatch, 
or have it only slightly developed, or perhaps have lost it; yet they have 
all possible kinds of political organization. 

^^ Argonauts, pp. 199-201, 203. The 'mountain' here is the d'Entre- 
casteaux group. The canoe will sink beneath the weight of stuff brought 
back from the kula; cf. pp. 200, 441-2: play on the word 'foam'. 


" We should perhaps also have studied Micronesia. There is a money 
and contract system of first importance especially at Yap and the Palaos. 
In Indo-China among the Mon-Khmer, in Assam and among the Tibeto- 
Burmans are also institutions of this kind. The Berbers, finally, have 
developed the remarkable thaoussa customs (Westermarck, Marriage 
Ceremonies in Morocco, see index under 'present'). Old Semitic law and 
Bedouin custom should also give useful material. 

2* See the 'ritual of beauty' in the Trobriand kula, Argonauts, pp. 334, 
336: 'Our partner looks at us, sees our faces are beautiful; he throws the 
vaygu'a at us.' Cf. Thurnwald on the use of silver as ornament: Forschungen, 
Vol. Ill, p. 39; p. 35, the expression Prachtbaum to denote a man or woman 
decorated witli .noney. The chief is the 'tree', I, p. 298; and the ornamented 
man lets forth a perfume, p. 192. 

26 Ibid., Ill, p. 36. 

2' Argonauts, p. 246. 

^^ Samoa-Inseln, III, Tab. 35. 

*» Layamori's Brut, 11. 22336 ff., 9994 flf. 



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